As a society, our relationship with food is a complicated one. While we have an abundance of food in some places, others struggle to find enough food to feed their families. Meanwhile, obesity statistics are only increasing, while eating disorders are also rife around the world. It’s clear that something is missing when it comes to relating healthily to the food we eat, but where do we even start when it comes to unpacking this?
While this one blog post won’t put the world to rights, we can start here to unpack how and why our relationships with food have gone awry, and how to set them straight. If you are struggling with your food right now, make sure to contact a licensed therapist to talk through the issues with them.
How we relate to food
In our society, we tend to focus on two things when we think about food: taste/satisfaction, and weight. For most people, we want our food to taste good, without compromising our ideal body image too heavily. We relate to food often in a superficial way by focusing on what the food will do to us, rather than for us. “Will this food make me fat?” Is a question most of us think about daily, even if we don’t realize it.
With these negative, superficial associations, it is no surprise that the way we consume and relate to food is negative too. As a society we have become obsessed with visual culture, thereby making food into a byproduct of our appearances, rather than seeing it for what it is: an essential tool for nourishment.
Rewiring our brains for better associations
So how do we get out of these bad associations? For those struggling intensely with eating disorders or other food related problems, it is important to seek professional help.
For most people, though, the answer is to take active steps towards rewiring our brains for better associations to food. Mindfulness is a seemingly meaningless buzzword that is thrown around a lot, but in fact, being mindful about the food you eat can help you appreciate it as a nourisher, instead of seeing it as a means to an end or a negative thing that will make you gain weight.
For example, let’s say you cook a delicious greek lasagna recipe for you and your family one night. As you work to prepare the meal, you might be plagued with thoughts about how this food will contribute negatively to your figure. The pasta, the cheese - these things are seen as unhealthy and bad.
If you have these thoughts, try to rework them into a positive framework. This food you are preparing grew from the ground or from an animal; it took time to arrive on your plate. It will help your body to move and breathe; it will help your brain to function.
These re-associations take practice, but they ultimately can help improve our relationship to food in the long term.