We are supposed to eat to live, not live to eat. But that wisdom is lost on so many of us, who routinely overindulge in our favorite foods (or on food that just happens to be there). The term “comfort food” speaks to the emotional attachment people tend to have to dishes and items that can make them feel good when life has got them down or out of sorts. In fact, some of us have emotional attachments to food in general; we run to food when we are happy, when we are sad, when we want to celebrate, when we feel insecure. We have social functions centered around food and holiday gatherings that combine family time (yay!) with total gluttony (boo!)…
I’ve long since had an unhealthy relationship with food. A lightly chubby child who became a “thick” teenager and a big college girl, my eating was so often patterned around how I felt, not what nutrition I needed to take in to fuel my ever expanding body. While I kept a pescatarian (fish-only) diet that was relatively low in salt and devoid of fried foods, I was a sugar monster with a major Starbucks habit and love of all baked goods. And, I NEVER worked out. A major “this has to stop” moment occurred when I was a few years out of school and I took control of my eating and activity levels. I became a gym rat and over the course of two years, I lost over sixty pounds. Despite having some gym-related setbacks (a relatively major injury, changing schedules, and a hard time getting back on track after a long absence), I’ve kept the weight off for almost two years now.
While my eating habits are much better than they were when I was pairing white chocolate mochas with turtle brownies, my struggle with food is far from over. I’ve finally been able to process the fact that not only will the cookies I’d be inclined to grab when sad not cure my blues, but the poundage it can add will invariably make me sadder. I know that when I use food to nurse loneliness or boredom, the problem remains and the relief is temporary. The hurdle now is letting go of my attachment to foods that are terrible for me, yet make me feel great when I eat them. I’m still a sugar monster, but I have to manage in moderation. Occasional indulgence, not constantly “treating myself” is the key.
Food should be more than simply functional; all of our five senses are wired to receive pleasure and we should absolutely enjoy eating, considering that we must do it daily to survive. However, we must ensure that we are providing our temple with the materials it needs to run well: fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, vitamins and nutrients. The sugary, greasy, fattening delights are not the only deliciously indulgent things to eat and we have to balance finding the “yummy” in what’s good for us and the restraint to limit the intake of what is bad. Common sense, but so very hard.
If a sad day finds you craving a pint of ice cream, take a long walk to clear your thoughts instead. If you still really want that Eddy’s, grab a single serving cup, not a quart. Don’t order a pizza because you’re bored, finish that book you’ve been dying to read instead. Call a good girlfriend when lonely, not the pizza guy. Food is not your friend and is not your safe place when life gets you down. Bad health from a bad diet (which is not restricted to, nor guaranteed of the overweight; many slim people can’t walk up a flight of stairs, let alone run a mile, due to poor eating/low exercise) can cost you the opportunity to experience joys that are far more thrilling than a bowl of ice cream Take control and free yourself to experience the world’s truest sweetness.