Wednesday, December 11, 2013

On Building a Relationship with Your Food

 Do you get "hangry" (hungry and angry). I do. It runs in my family.

Sometimes I feel like I am a little over-involved with my food. You know how people always say that they "live to eat" or "eat to live"? Well, I fall solidly in the category of the former. It is so easy for me to understand the idea of having a relationship with your food. I don't mean that you literally have an unhealthy (and weird) romantic obsession with your lunch, I just mean that you have a definite understanding of the way that food affects you and your life and how you respond to that.

Perhaps you are reading this and feeling like it is a little silly, but I beg to differ. I think that, especially as a woman, it is important to understand your relationship with food and it is important to understand the way that different aspects of life shape your relationship with food.

1. Culture. Look, we live in a culture that is on the one hand obsessed with food where everyone is a "foodie" and on the other hand skeptical of food. Culinary exploration, trendy fusion restaurants, the hipsterness of your grandma's "vintage" recipes, and the food truck phenomenon totally promote enjoyment of delicious food and it is awesome! People can make whole careers out of food related hobbies. However, we also have an obsession with health foods and restrictive diets. We protest GMOs, cut out processed everything, grow our own vegetables, insist upon free-range-grain and organic fed meats, and idolize kale, green juice and quinoa. Gluten free is no longer only for those with debilitating and painful diseases that limit them from gluten-it is now the "vogue" way to eat. The way that you choose to put food into your body is influenced by so many things. Just because everyone and their mother is gluten free or vegetarian or pescetarian or "etarian" of any kind does not mean it is a healthy or sane choice for you. Pop culture is an obvious culprit for hair, clothing, media, and music trends, but it has an influence over food and the way we consume it as well.

Are you choosing to eat the way that you do because you enjoy it, it is good for you, and it makes sense for your life? Or are you choosing to eat the way you do because is is the way that seems popular to eat? 

2. Body Image. I don't know that men struggle with body image as it relates to food as much as women do. Perhaps they do, but I only ever hear about it from women. The media inundates us with images of wafer thin models who have been airbrushed even further and tells us that they are the picture of ideal beauty and vitality. Women and young girls are told that their worth comes from their sex appeal and that they are only sexy if they are a size two or smaller. That simply is not true.

Now, I am not trying to slight women who are naturally thin because I understand that people come in all shapes and sizes. What I am saying is that most models make a living from being thin and beautiful. They spend a lot of time limiting their calories and hitting the treadmill and their pictures spend a lot of time on some artist's Photoshop. The absolute reality for the majority of the population is that they will not look like a Victoria's Secret model by eating whatever they want all the time. This is where food begins to play a role. Many times women limit or change their diets based only on the desire to achieve a certain type of body (generally a smaller one). When you are in the mindset of dieting because your body confidence is low you begin having a really destructive relationship with food. Denying yourself only makes you miserable. If you all the sudden give up major food groups  because you are on a diet then you are inevitably going to fail. When you fail you feel discouraged. When you feel discouraged you start thinking that your body is not good enough. It is a vicious cycle. Food should not be miserable for you!!

Obviously, if you are overweight and unhealthy then you should work to get to a healthy weight. Likewise, if you are underweight and unhealthy then you should work to gain healthy weight. The problem here is that the average, healthy American woman often believes that her body is ugly. I am telling you right now that what you are eating is not the only factor that contributes to your beauty or your self worth. If you want to eat healthy then by all means eat healthy. If you love to eat pop-tarts for every meal then do that. Eat how you want if it makes you feel good and it isn't terribly detrimental to your health.

It is okay to love food. It is okay to love all food. It is okay to indulge. Moderation is key, obviously- but you don't have to be in a battle against food and your body. Give yourself a break.

Are you eating the way that you are only because you believe that there is something wrong you or your body and you believe that food will change it? That is the wrong reason and is ultimately destructive emotionally, mentally, and physically.

3.Philosophy. Do you have a (positive and healthy) philosophy surrounding food? I am not saying that you need to write out a manifesto about your eating habits (although, if you do then that would be kinda cool- maybe you could tape it to your fridge), but having an idea about the way in which you like to eat seems important. For example, my food philosophy would be something like this:

-Food that is uncomplicated and unprocessed makes me feel better.
-I like to eat foods that only have ingredients that I can pronounce in them.
-I would rather make it home-made with my own two hands and ingredients I control than buy it in a box. But, I won't ever feel guilty for feeding myself or anyone else store-bought mixes or not having time to whip up something home-made. 
-If I have an undeniable craving for something then there is probably a reason and indulging that craving in moderation is good.
-I will always stop at In-n-Out burger when I am in the same city as one. Always.
-Organic foods, ethically produced meats, and free-trade chocolate and coffee is always the goal even if it can't always be the reality of the food that I purchase.
-I do not feel guilty for kind of disliking salad and not wishing to eat it for every meal.
-Heavy cream, sugar, carbs, and butter are not the enemy.
-I do not count calories and I do not own a bathroom scale. 
-I eat intuitively.
-I view food as a gift and a necessity. I view eating as a way to nourish and care for my body.
-I treat food as a vehicle and an opportunity for fellowship, hospitality, and love toward others. 
-I view my body as a temple of the Holy Spirit and as a perfect work of my Heavenly Father, and I choose my food as a reflection of that reality.

What I believe about food and how I view it won't be right for everyone. My dietary needs are not the same as yours. My health situation is unique to me. And I am in no way qualified to give anyone dietary advice. You have to craft your relationship with food (and yourself) in a way that fits your life.

Food is an important issue for so many reasons (I could write posts and posts about it), and your relationship with it is just one of them. The next time you sit down to eat or make your grocery list, I urge you to take a little extra time to explore how you are approaching your food and determine if your relationship with food is a healthy one or an unhealthy one.
This is always how I feel. 

PS. I have no less than three food related Pinterest boards. Check them out here  
both images via

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