I find it compelling to think about the connection we have with the food we eat…I guess because the bond is so layered, nothing like the relationship we have with water and air, the other life-sustaining essentials. Is it dramatic to call it culturally dysfunctional? You have to be living in a cave to not know we have problems with food; just look around at all the attention that’s given to weight loss and the billions spent on it. Why don’t we hear about people hyperventilating, passing out from taking in too much air, and why aren’t there scads of books on Amazon that outline Quick and Easy Tips to prevent over-hydrating?
When you really think about food, when you push all the so-called facts and latest diet rules aside, you’ve got to ask yourself: “What’s food really supposed to do…why is it here?” And don’t say that’s easy, we need food to live. Food is waaaaay more than just an energy source. If eating was simply a matter of fueling and refueling, the word “diet” wouldn’t be a national problem or a preoccupation and food wouldn’t be a source of extreme pleasure or gut-wrenching pain. It wouldn’t be the center of parties or reasons for self-berating and self-deprivation. It would be simple. We’d just fill up on the amount we need when we need it and move on. And wouldn’t that be nice? Like human relationships, the relationship we have with food is complex, way beyond just taking it in to survive. And it doesn’t matter if you’re always dieting or you don’t care at all about the nutritional value of food you take in, it’s the relationship, not the choice, that’s the issue.
Weight loss that evolves into lifestyle isn’t about a daily check list of eating the right foods. It’s not about how many calories or how many carbs you take in, or whether or not the bread you just ate has gluten (gasp!) in it or not. The what, the when, and the how much you take in is about is how you feel towards your consumable friend. What do you ask it to do for you?
It’s no different than relationships we have with people except, safe to say, food doesn’t get much out of it.
So if we agree that the connection we have with food is relationally-grounded in a strong emotional bond, we have to ask ourselves, what kind of relationship am I in? Is it a co-dependent one, does food tell you what you want to hear? Is the relationship rigid and unpredictable, great one minute, terrible the next? Are the highs high and the lows low? Does the interaction leave you feeling worthless and weak? If you feel a sense of powerlessness coupled with a feeling that something other than your own internal compass is controlling you, you may feel victimized or even abused.
When we want to improve our eating to lose weight, be healthier, or both, instead of focusing on the details of what we are putting in, we need to step back and look in a different direction, evaluating what the food is actually filling within us. (Because trust me, it’s not just about filling your tummy.) Until you figure out the relationship issues, create new boundaries, shift your efforts towards figuring out how to take back power, nothing else is important. You’ve got to change the basis of the relationship from one of dependence or abuse to one that’s balanced and flexible, until you do…all efforts are just temporary.
Stop the, should-I-or-shouldn’t-I-eat-the-burger dance you’ve got going on in your head. It’s exhausting and pointless. Change your strategy. Start by looking within and begin to ask yourself the hard questions so you can figure out how to change the dynamic of the relationship and live the life you want.
Begin the process by telling your food, You’re not the boss of me anymore!