Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Health: Hungry for more

Okay, so on to the topic of food. I've decided that the topic of food is going to have to be covered in several posts because to be honest there are many facets of it...at least from where I stand. So be patient with me.

To some of us, food is a dear friend. To others of us, food is an enemy. And there are those of us that may feel that it can be both. But, the problem is....it really should be neither. I feel like this past year has been a process (and I emphasize that word, as I've not arrived) of removing food from the category of things that I have a "relationship" with. Does that make sense? What I mean is...food is not supposed to be friend or an enemy. It is nothing more than a means of nutrition, health, and yes...it can (and maybe should) be enjoyable...but it is not something that I should turn to for more than that. Not for comfort, for something to do when I'm bored, or on the flip side...it's not something to control when my world is chaotic (which is what many people with eating disorders struggle with). It's just FOOD. If I can ever really learn that truth, I feel like I'll be able to treat it appropriately and not give it a place in my life that it doesn't deserve. A friend reminded me of that ever so fitting quote, "Eat to live, don't live to eat".

So, as I'm sure you gathered...I suppose that somewhere along the way I allowed myself to enter into a relationship with food. I'm not sure when it happened, or how. Did we have a D.T.R talk? Was it love at first sight? Did I see others having a relationship with it (i.e. it was modeled) and assume I too was supposed to have a relationship with it? I don't honestly know.

I do know, though, and agree with an anthropologist friend of mine who once said to me, "Food is at the center of all that we do as a culture". Meaning, we celebrate around food (cakes, party trays), we mourn around food (casseroles, pints of ice cream), we socialize around food (going out to dinner)....you get the idea. So, it's no wonder that we begin to move food from the category of necessity to relationship. We slowly make associations between food and feelings/emotions. We do the same thing with other senses besides taste too, like sound and smells. Think about it....if I played, "Cold Hearted Snake" by Paula Abdul (sorry, couldn't think of anything else off hand) it probably takes you back to a season in your life, whether generally or specifically. This time of year, I can smell leaves burning and am immediately whisked away to camping with my family as a child. It brings a huge smile to my face. So, taste is wired the same way. We become attached to certain foods because they remind us of home, or grandma, or college, a certain season, etc. And before you know it, we have associations with food that are more about comfort, nostalgia, tradition, and passing time with friends and family. It's not that this isn't an okay aspect of food. And, to be honest if we were able to keep these associations as just that, associations, it wouldn't be all that bad. But somewhere along the way they move from associations to substitutes. They no longer remind us of a time, person, or place that we once enjoyed....they take the place (or attempt to) of that time, person, or place...filling a void that can't be filled no matter how much pumpkin pie you eat. Can I get an amen? Ha!

Some may think all of this psychological hubbub doesn't matter. Or maybe you might be saying, "Yeah, yeah, I get it. But, just get to the practical stuff that I can actually DO to make changes in the way I eat". But, I am learning that if you don't first see food for what it is intended to be, examine what you've allowed it to become and why....the practical stuff will be for naught. Yeah, it might work for a while....but you'll yo-yo...promise.

So, this has been part of my process this past year too....determining why I eat (hunger/energy vs. other reasons), and determining why I eat the foods that I do (especially if I know it's going to sabotage my efforts to be a healthier me). But, this is just the beginning.

Like I said, food is not only a part of our culture, but truly at the center of our culture. So, working on changing my unhealthy relationship with food is challenging. I obviously can't just sever the relationship all together like others who struggle with alcohol or drugs might do. I HAVE to eat. Perhaps I can sever the ties with certain foods that I know are triggers for me to overeat, or eat unhealthily, etc...at least until I can am confident I can handle myself and those foods with self-control. But, people are still going to throw parties, ask me to dinner, etc. So, what's a girl to do?

For me it's a combination of things that allow me to be more successful. Sure, some of it is simply making better choices about what and how much I eat. But, a lot of it is asking the Lord to show me and teach me about the heart behind why I misuse food. I want to get at these areas and deal with them appropriately. And, in the meantime, I'm also trying to change the culture of my marriage, family, and maybe even some of my friendships so that I don't have to struggle quite as much day-to-day.

Okay, so I'm sure the all that I spewed out today will be revisited in some of the other upcoming food posts since it's so interconnected....so I'll just leave it at that. But, you can pray for me...that I would break up with food once and for all. It's not poor food's fault, it's mine.....I've abused him and misused him, and asked him to be more to me than he was able to. And now it's time to say goodbye to our relationship and allow him to simply be what he was intended to be....FOOD.

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