How often I have justified what I ate or drank.
It was Tuesday.
I had a bad day.
I was hungry.
My best friend was no longer my best friend.
The list goes on. Food was always there for me. It didn’t matter what went down, I knew there was a carton of ice cream or box of pizza that would be there for me. Nothing soothes tears of a break up better than pint sized ice cream and Hallmark movies. There’s even numerous Hallmark movies about that very scene so how could it be wrong?
I think my connection of using food to soothe emotions started when my mom used to give me M&Ms. When boo-boos came and later boyfriend breakups and trouble at school, out would come the chocolate covered treat as a way to make things better. You could count on this being the go-to for any problem because what could not be better when you had M&Ms? We’ve all been soothed by the baked cookie that comes with a hug and promise tomorrow will be better.
That’s how it happens.
No, I don’t blame my mom or any parent that has done this well known practice of soothing with sweets. It is what they are good for after all. Where the system fails is that we never really move past this method well into our adulthood or ever in most cases. It is just what we know to do. It is why people bring casseroles during funerals and cakes to weddings. Food is our centerpiece of celebration and grief. By design or long handed down tradition, it is simply what we do.
Trained to soothe with food
There are a couple misnomers about using food to comfort and soothe. First, the diet industry would have us believe this cannot occur because if we want to be healthy we must be deprived of comfort. Instead it should come from knowing we can fit into our pants and we look physically good. Secondly, what happens if we don’t heal and never get soothed? The emotional eating detriments can have long lasting health impacts. If we never feel better we are constantly being driven by cravings, desires for comfort foods and stuck in the perpetual ice cream aisle seeking comfort.
I personally really despise the negativity the diet industry has brought to our relationship with food. If there is one area of our life that we don’t even realize the damage being caused to our health it is the association of the word diet. That single 4 letter word can invoke incredible reactions within our being that are usually tied to negativity, disappointment and guilt about who we are and what we look like. It creates such a feeling of failure that even further disconnects from our whole being and the nourishment food can give us in mind, body and spirit.
The other side of the coin is the struggle to emotionally be well. Stress, trauma, illness and many other factors feed into our emotional health status. We can all at times encounter bouts of the blues but for many of us it is long periods of time that can be severe.
In both situations we become disconnected from our true selves. We see our health in parts instead of a whole being which prevents real health from being addressed.
I believe food was designed to give us nourishment in mind, body and spirit. When we only focus on one element of who we are, or we struggle in one area of it where food becomes dominants rather than supportive the balance becomes impossible to maintain. For example, when we only focus on physically losing weight we can see food as an adversary to that goal. We may feel resentful of what we consider healthy and not like the taste of it. Yet when we approach losing weight with a balance in our mind, body, spirit, we can approach food in a supportive way and see where it is helping us move forward.
Food nourishes our emotions as much if not more than it fills our physical hunger. You have to feed your whole being. – Amy Kramer, Dragonspit Apothecary
In my opinion this is why most diets fail. We focus solely on the physical aspects of weight loss by controlling food portions and types. We think gaining control of food will long term be the best route. The reality is most people gain back weight from this type of eating because it is not sustainable.
Food is evil though right?
We certainly cannot go around eating pizza and dessert every day because of what’s in 99% of the pizza and ice cream ingredients. Definitely not if we’re looking to lose weight or have long term health. That doesn’t make pizza and ice cream and all the other food we encounter bad though.
Classifying a food as bad or good is something else the diet industry has given us. This careful tightrope can easily have us tumbling back into the rabbit holes of what various so called experts call good or bad foods.
It is actually the ingredients used that make one food better than another. You can make an incredibly healthy pizza and ice cream. Even if you don’t like a cauliflower crust there are other means to accomplishing a healthy slice. So, it is not that pizza is bad it is the ingredients that consist of preservatives, sugar, salt, man-made fake food and more that give some foods their bad rap.
Would we like pizza and ice cream if those ingredients weren’t in there?
The reason nutritionists tell you to shop the perimeter of the grocery store is because that’s where real food typically lives. Every aisle of the grocery store though has risks of these ingredients that really should not be in our food.
Walking through the produce section is a great example. For years there was this push that organic foods were too expensive and were not consistent in taste. Yet, organic produce is one of the best foods in the grocery store and the majority of the time, the price differences are nominal compared to regular fruit and vegetables. As for taste, it is actually what a real banana, grape, tomato, cucumber and other should taste like.
The use of ingredients that speed up the growth, create consistent taste and extend shelf live of a product have not only altered real food but played trickery on our own mind. Your body craves real food because it knows what to do with that. Your mind though has been trained to seek consistent routines and tastes. This is often why parents struggle to get their kids to eat fresh foods over chicken nuggets. A chicken nugget is going to taste the same every singe time. A blueberry is going to taste different berry to berry.
The best way to improve your diet is to become a label reader and avoid products that don’t contain real food. Start rebuilding your taste buds to their original state and enjoy the cornucopia of color, taste, texture, and smell of real food.
Amazingly, as we improve our relationship with real food, a great deal of our health problems go away on their own. – Amy Kramer, Dragonspit Apothecary
The truth is once you start loving real food again, the attraction to things you used to eat starts to wane. You’re less drawn to the pizza and ice cream. It doesn’t mean you won’t ever have it again, because you will, but you develop other desires to nourish your mind, body and spirit. Food plays the lead role in that change.
When it comes to soothing our emotions with food, that will always exist because it is inherently how we are designed. Food was meant to be pleasurable and comforting. However, it is changes how we use food in these situations. Building health inside out means we don’t gravitate as much to the sweets and grease because our body, mind and spirit have what they need to heal without them. So, when we do have these types of foods it becomes intentional instead of mindless, with the ability to understand what it truly going on so we can wrap further support around ourselves.
That shift in seeing food changes our entire relationship with it.
To answer the question, food is not evil or bad. It is how we use it, all kinds of it that matters.
When you soothe with chocolate or indulge in a hot slice of pizza it can be done in pleasure and comfort. It can be an experience that does not leave us with guilt, shame or worse feelings than we had prior to eating it. We direct the relationship we have with food most when we work to maintain the balance in mind, body and spirit and understand the powerful role food has in that.
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