Ask yourself what food is to you. Is food “filling the hole” to keep away hunger pains? Is it a comfort at night when you feel a loss, or lonely? Is it an enhancement to social situations? Is food a celebration? Is food a source of love to you or a way to express your love to others? Or is food a nourishment to your body? Food often is many of those things, but first and foremost, it needs to be nourishment to your body.
When you eat, are you trying to manipulate your body to be a certain way?
Do you punish yourself for not being “in control of your body” by starving it?
Do you dislike what you see in the mirror and decide you are “failing” because those diets you have followed aren’t working for you?
Perhaps you need another approach. Perhaps instead of telling your body what it needs, and listening to others tell you what your body needs, you should really listen to what your body is telling you. Your body’s needs may be very different than what the authors of those books tell you it needs. You are a unique individual, with your own history, needs and activities. Besides, if a “one size fits all” approach worked, there wouldn’t be twenty “one size fits all” approaches; there would be one.
So let’s look at the idea of food as nourishment, not just to the processes of your body, but also to the emotional needs of you and the social aspect of you. Food can even be a way you express your personal energy or a reflection of your personality with the world. This is all what I call your relationship with food or food as nourishment to your body, mind and soul.
Nourishment to your body
You know that your body requires certain nutrients, certain foods to keep it healthy. However, that isn’t how most people feed their body. If it were just a combination of proteins, carbohydrates and fats, with some micronutrients and trace minerals; I’m sure we could come up with some sort of “people food” that would keep us fueled and in good order. Just like you feed your dog or cat. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? No?
Now ask yourself, if you know that you need these nutrients, and you know there are wonderful, delicious ways of getting these nutrients, what are you doing about it? Doesn’t an omelet filled with red peppers, onions, spinach and mushrooms sound like an amazing way to start the day? The sweetness of fruits we could snack on, including apples, grapes, blueberries and pineapple are filled with phytonutrients and micronutrients. Delicious plant based and Paleo based recipes surround us with amazing tastes and variety. We have every opportunity to nourish our bodies with a variety of flavors and nutrients at the same time. If that is what you are doing, I applaud you, because you are in the minority.
The health of many people in the US is suffering, yet we have access to all the nourishing foods we need. When we look at ourselves, we see the history of what we have been eating; after all, we are what we ate. If you look at yourself and feel good about your history, I applaud you, because once again, you are in the minority.
Nourishment to your emotional needs
Many of us feel ashamed to know that we eat for reasons other than to fill our stomachs. However, we forget that when we were born, for most of us, our first experience in the world was that food was everything; or at least accompanied by other things we wanted and needed. We experienced food with love, with comfort, with warmth, and with a heartbeat to calm us. Social interaction with the one that loved us the most was provided when we first experienced eating, either from a breast or a bottle. There is no shame in equating food with love, comfort and social interaction. There is no shame in associating food with feeling loved or showing love to others. This experience is true throughout all cultures, although some people did not experience this in their lives, most people can identify with this.
As our personal histories emerged, we experienced food in our lives as well as emotional experiences; many times these things came together. Celebratory meals have been times with special foods and special people, whether family members or friends; these were times of happiness that we treasured. It is no shame to remember these times, nor to try to experience more of them. The problem comes when we attempt to reconnect with those memories solely with the consumption of the food, rather than the connection with people. Simply eating those foods does not fill the need of seeing those people. However, we try to get as close as we can, so we try it anyway. Our need is for the emotional closeness, not for the food. All the food in the world is not going to give us the emotional closeness, but our need is so strong we try anyway. Perhaps we need to look at what are we truly hungry for? What do we truly need to nourish?
Nourishment to your social being
Our life experiences bring us many social experiences, and many times these are also accompanied by associated foods. For some it may be an association of alcohol or drugs. We are social beings, designed to be interdependent as well as independent; we need each other. Community is an important aspect of living, however often it seems unattainable. Our independent living has driven us to barely know our neighbors, perhaps live far from our families, and struggle to make friends in sterile work environments. The community in many of our lives is lacking, so there is certainly no shame in seeking it out, as there is no shame in bringing food into the social experience. Food has traditionally been a part of showing love or caring in social settings and it is a normal reason to bring people together.
This can, however, raise two sources of overindulgence. One, when every social experience is a celebration with excess; and two, when the lack of social experience causes us to turn to food to fill the void. Or worse, when the social experience is less than expected, one fills the void with excess food. For example, when we are at a potluck in the sterile work environment where there are few friends and many awkward moments; it is easy to fill the void with the action of eating, remarking on how good the food is, then refilling our plate, though our physical hunger is already satisfied. The social interaction is not satisfying, so we turn to the one thing that may possibly provide satisfaction, even if we are aware it really won’t.
Nourishment to your personality
Most of us have known ourselves long enough to see our personality in action. No matter how we feel we “should” be, or would like to be, we are the way we are. Sometimes we like what we see, other times we try to change it. There is no wrong in trying to improve our abilities or skills, but there are some aspects of ourselves that are an innate part of us. You have heard the terms “introvert” and “extrovert”. A person who is naturally an introvert can improve their speaking skills, communication skills and learn great presence, but they will be fighting themselves if they try to become an extrovert. Likewise, an extrovert can discipline themselves to remain quiet and still, but they will still have extrovert tendencies that will need to come out in some way. Knowing and accepting our true nature is key to knowing what we truly crave, what we need and what will truly nourish us.
If food can be an expression of our personalities, then what is wrong with that? Do we enjoy sharing food, showing our creativity, or sitting in our favorite chair with a cup of tea? Allow your personality to shine, just do it with food that can be nourishing to you, as opposed to doing damage to your body. You are a creative being, you can find ways to do that, you may just have to think about what you are trying to achieve with what you are doing now. For example, if you enjoy showing your creativity with decorating cakes, perhaps you could take up another form of three dimensional art, such as pottery. If it is creating desserts that seem to appeal to you, you can find healthy approaches to desserts, with whole grains and natural sweetening agents such as dates; then you can share them with people who don’t know there are such alternatives and help them improve their health as well. If you care about someone, why would you give them something that can be damaging to their health, anyway?
The key is finding how we can nourish ourselves with food in a way that allows us to nourish our bodies, minds and souls; and find ways to nourish ourselves in these other areas using food as a tool, not a substitute. If you would like some help with this, feel free to contact me for a free strategy session.