I was busy in the last few days and got behind with doing the daily challenge task. Now I am doing catch up.
This is Day 12 of Live a Healthier Life in 21 Days Challenge.
I think my relationship with food is mostly healthy and non emotional. I eat because that’s part of my daily routine. I eat when the clock tells me it’s time for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I usually eat less than full.
If I skip a meal or two, I don’t feel any physical discomfort like many people do. I can also eat more than I normally do if I want to.
I don’t think I eat for reasons such as feeling stressed, bored, frustrated, unhappy, guilty, or depressed.
I did grow up with the doctrine: “Don’t waste any food.” That’s the only emotional connection I can think of.
I can think of a few situations when I tend to either eat more or eat not so healthy food.
- Go out to eat Chinese buffet. Read A love/hate relationship about eating buffet.
- At parties and events where there is free food
- Don’t want to leave food for the next day so I will eat everything even though I have eaten enough.
- Don’t want to waste food so I will eat more than I need.
- I tend to snack more at work than at home. When I sit in the office all day, I eat more snacks than I do at home.
Since I eat light and healthy most of the time, I don’t have big concerns about my relationship with food.
The following is from the 21DHL Forum.
Day 12 – Explore Your Relationship With Food
Today’s task is about exploring our relationship with food.
Looking through everyone’s journals including mine, it’s interesting to see the words we use to describe food.
“I love steak. I’m never going to give it up.”
“I love cookies. They’re so delicious.”
“I have sinned because I ate that piece of cake.”
“I cheated on my diet.”
“I love this salad that I’m eating.”
“I feel like crap because I didn’t stick to my diet and ate cheese.”
“I feel so happy because I’m drinking my favorite smoothie now.”
“I feel guilty for for eating that chocolate just now.”
“I hate myself for overeating.”
It’s funny because all these are extremely strong words we’re using. Love. Hate. Sinned. Cheated. Crap. Guilty. All these are strong emotions that we’re evoking, all in the name of food. Yet is food a living thing? It’s not. Food is not alive. It’s dead. It’s a non-living thing that just sits there in the kitchen counter/fridge/container we’ve put it in whether we like it or not. No matter how much we love it or hate it, it’s not going to bounce out and hug us. It’s never going to return whatever emotions we hold for it.
Because this is a 1-way relationship that is never going to be reciprocated, the intense emotions we hold towards our food leads to an unhealthy, erratic eating behavior. From depriving ourselves of a certain food because we’ll feel guilty about eating it, to binging that exact same food the next moment. From feeling ecstatic about getting to eat our favorite food, to feeling upset and unhappy when we don’t have it. From rewarding ourselves for adhering to our diet, to beating ourselves up when we fall off our tiny wagon.
The emotions we created from food didn’t just appear out of nothing of course. They have been built since our childhood, from the advertisements we see of happy people eating a certain food (think fast food, like McDonald’s and KFC); from billboard pictures of food items; from situations we experience with food (e.g., celebrating an event such as a birthday with lots of food); from things people tell us about food (e.g., “If you eat this you’re a good child”).
For me, my relationship with food was one that was forged between my parents and love. When I was young, my parents, especially my mom, would buy a lot of food for me and my brother. For them, buying food for us is their way of expressing love. Hence, the link that eating/food = love became deeply embedded in my subconsciousness. As I grew up, eating became a natural reaction to situations I face, particularly frustration and stress. Whenever I’m working, I’ll feel like eating something, even if I just ate.
The key to addressing this isn’t to negate your existing emotions for food, but to understand where they stem from. For example, if I specifically my current love for smoothies and salads, it’s because of the vitality and high energy they bring me. Hence, it’s not the smoothies and the salads that I love – it’s the increased energy, which lets me feel more alive, hence experiencing life on a heightened scale. Knowing this helps me to unchain any unnecessary emotional links I have with the food itself, and connect with the underlying reason, so that I can then focus on living life with vitality vs. craving for smoothies/salads to do that.
Today, let us spend some time to explore our relationship with food as a whole, via our eating habits. The more conscious we are of our eating behaviors, the more it’ll help us develop healthy eating habits and live a healthy life.
1) What are your eating triggers?
In the ideal world, our relationship with food will be one where we eat only when we feel hungry and we stop eating immediately once we are full (vs. eating to finish the plate etc). We do not eat based on any extrinsic factors (such for as a celebration, or stress, work, boredom, to feed a feeling of depression, etc), but based purely on intrinsic factors (i.e. whether we’re hungry or not).
For many of us though, a lot of our eating/non-eating occurs outside of hunger. It’s because of this that there are problems such as obesity, underweight, anorexia and bulimia are prevalent in the society.
If you think about it, what are your triggers for eating/not eating? Below are some common examples:
- Stress – Do you eat when you feel stressed / under pressure? While I don’t consider any of the work I do stressful at all, I do notice that I reach out for food whenever it’s time to work (even in the past, when I’m studying). In my mind, food is like a companion that gives me energy/ideas while I work.
- Frustration – Do you reach out for food when you are frustrated? When something is not going the way you want? When you overate and you are beating yourself over it?
- Boredom – Do you eat when you feel bored? When you are at a loss of what you should be doing?
- Guilt – Is food an outlet to release your guilt? This is an area I fall under as well, though not to the same extent as my natural reaction to eat when I’m working. If I ever fall off track in my diet/plans, I’d forget it all and just binge for the whole day. After all, since I’ve already eaten that pastry, what does it matter if I eat everything else that’s there?
- Happiness – Do you eat as a way to celebrate?
- Depression – Do you eat when you feel down/unhappy/depressed?
- Social – Do you eat when you’re out with friends, even though you don’t feel hungry?
2) Understand why you eat under those situations
Why do you eat during those situations you identified in #1? For the answer that comes up, continue to ask “Why” until you have arrived at the underlying root cause. This is also what I call as the digging exercise, as you’re literally “digging” to uncover the fundamental reason why you’re triggered to eat when you feel stressed/guilty/frustrated/bored/happy/etc.
For example, if I dig into why I eat when I’m working, these are the answers I get:
Why do I eat when I work, even though I’m not hungry?
– Because I need to eat while I’m working
– Because I can’t work without eating
– Because it’s my source of life
– Because food is like my companion. It accompanies me as I work.
– Because I feel empty without it.
– Because when I eat food, I feel love.
– Because food is a reward. Because when I was young, dad and mom would buy lots of food to show their love. They’ve always said it’s important to eat to stay alive and healthy. In chinese saying, 能吃是福, meaning it’s a blessing and gift to be able to eat.
Because of all the conditioning when I was young, I have developed the link that food = love. This is one of the answers that come up when I explore why I eat in the context of work. When I explore it in the context of guilt, a different set of answers come up, whereby I’m trying to punish myself by overeating.
Keep digging across the different contexts relevant for you and you may find some mind opening answers. The power of your realizations is dependent on how deeply you’re willing to dig. The deeper you dig, the more powerful your realizations will be. You know you have reached the underlying root cause when you get an a-ha moment and when you reach an incident(s) that led to the belief being formed vs. the belief itself.
3) What can you do to restore a healthy relationship with food?
Given your answers in #2, what can you do moving forward to develop a healthy relationship with food? List down your key action steps. The results may not be immediate, but this is the start of a journey to creating that healthy relationship with food, and to living a truly healthy lifestyle.
For me, my key steps are:
1) See food for what it is – something to sustain life vs. a companion or friend
2) Continue to build positive relationships with my parents
3) Do the digging exercise whenever I eat in spite of not feeling hungry
4) Continue to love myself more (Day 20 of 30DLBL)
5) Continue to eat a high raw food diet and transition to a raw diet in the long-term, which will help me become more conscious of my eating habits and develop a positive relationship with food.