For better or worse? How to build a Healthy Relationship with Food
24 February 2015
Building a Positive Relationship with Food
On the surface, talking about having a relationship with food may seem rather bizarre - after all food is not a person so how can we be in a relationship with it? As humans we are in relationships with everything around us - both animate and inanimate objects. A relationship can be defined as our proximity relative to another person/object. Emotively we can be close to a friend or family member,and we can also have a positive or negative perception of a non-living entity that we regularly interact with - a computer, a table, a car, a building, even our food. Our experiences with things directly influence how we perceive them and consequently how we feel about them - that is, they either induce a positive or negative emotion in us.
Food works in exactly the same way. For some, food is an emotional crutch that is turned to during times of stress, anxiety or sadness; for others food is a feel-good space that comforts by temporarily filling a void; some even see food as an evil force that causes them to gain weight. Therefore the relational dynamics that different people build with food are complex and multifaceted. Using an abundance of food as a source of instant gratification and temporary satisfaction, or a deficit of food as a source of control are clear indicators of negative relationships with food. Most of us fit into at least one of these three types of food relationships: food for temporary comfort during stressful periods, food for satisfaction; or (no) food for control. These are all negative relationships with food because we are relying on food rather than ourselves for an emotional response. Many psychological elements associated with modern society stem from factors unrelated to the symptoms exhibited by the individual. In this case, using food as an outlet becomes the response to a stimulus unrelated to the food itself. No one can deny that the feeling of eating after being very hungry is definitely satisfying, and that consuming tasty food is pleasurable; however this is all that it should be, nothing more. Food is not an emotional crutch, a source upon which to gain control, or an entity to alleviate stress; rather food is our key source of energy, internal balance and healing.