Why is it we eat? The obvious answer, would be because we are hungry or because we have to eat to survive. But let’s face it, most of us eat because of the emotional connection we have to food. Have you noticed how mothers usually bribe children with ice cream so they can get a break and have the kids behave? Usually, the children are made to go sit and eat their ice cream “peacefully.” Now, have you noticed that when an adult person eat’s ice cream, they usually also go sit down somewhere to eat it calmly? Many of us have been conditioned since we were young to eat ice cream as a reward and a bribe based on our behavior.
The relationship to food usually begins well before we are even in control of our own diet. We are influenced by our parents choices for us. In addition, in life events such as birthdays and holidays like Thanksgiving, we eat foods like cake and pumpkin pie that have become staples over time. These events bring people together and the food we eat gets associated with the pleasure of the occasion . It is positive and natural to recall good memories and experiences of the past associated with eating with family and friends. Food is meant to nourish and give pleasure, as it is pleasing to the senses and the soul.
Moreover, as humans, it is also natural to want to avoid pain and seek pleasure, so when we are having a bad day, feeling down or experiencing pain, we usually turn to food to bring us the feeling of “joy” and “pleasure”we look for. Those foods bring back the feelings that it created for us at specific moments in our lives and it is certain foods that will trigger the reward centers in the brain. Needless to say, it does not mean that we should not have a connection to food or indulge in delicious yet unhealthy treats once in a while. The problem is that most of the associations to food and emotions have been created around “unhealthy foods.”
So the real question is, how do we create consciousness around the food we eat and how can we make connections and memories with food that is truly nourishing? Here are some suggestions:
- Practice Mindful eating. This means paying attention to your thoughts before, during, and after you eat. Also, eating slowly and savoring the food you are eating. It will allow you to connect with the food and moment vs just eating emotions.
- Creating boundaries and giving yourself flexibility to eat balanced and still enjoy those occasional moments when you indulge.
- Be mindful to ask questions about current eating patterns like,
- Do I use food to enhance pleasure?
- Do I use food to avoid pain
- How do the foods I eat make me feel?
- Finally, when choosing what to eat, ask yourself two key questions:
- Will I enjoy it?
- Will it nourish me?
More often than not, we find that we do not make the choices to eat the food that really nourishes us. Therefore, it is important to seek out places that not only use fresh and healthy ingredients, but also care about the connection and experiences that are created with healthy and delicious food. Restaurants like Grater Greens are perfect examples of places that understand that food is LOVE. So go grab a lunch with a loved one, make a connection, and create a great memory!