Food + Love. I was recently reminded of the healing power of having a meal made and shared with love.
You know, the truly nourishing experience that it is, when you allow yourself to be fully present and engage all your senses in the eating experience. It becomes not just about the food, but the company, the conversations and the surroundings as well.
To me it is such a blessing to be having food and sharing the eating experience with people who not only appreciate the food for its taste and quality, but also from where it has come. The appreciation of beauty, that is fresh colourful ingredients and the gift itself that is in giving, and the blessing that is in receiving.
It had me humbled and reminded that what an lesson in receiving it is to be gifted in this way.
THIS is when food and eating is not all about nutritional value but rather all about Vitamin P – P for Pleasure.
The meal was such a fulfilling experience on every level. A simple reminder of the little things in life to savour, both literally and symbolically.
We may consider LOVE as the ultimate nourishment for our whole selves, and food, of course, is the fuel for our physical existence. Alongside air and water food is something we cannot survive without.
However the dynamic dance between food and love is not always as straightforward as this, though I would like to think it should be, or perhaps at least could be. Though if you have ever struggled with this intricate dyamic, you know…
There is a shadow side of Food + Love.
Sometimes we use food not as a part of a loving experience but rather as a substitute for love.
Like those moments when we use food as the “fix” to sooth a broken heart, a bruised ego or a just as a way to fill the void in our lives?
Somehow this message that food is comfort is reinforced when you start paying attention to what the media is portraying. I’m sure you have seen, just like I have, the images of someone drowning their sorrows with a spoon and a tub of ice cream in front of the telly. I mean, it is a natural thing as the most fundamental part of nurturing a baby is given the breast as both food and comfort.
Thing is though, that when we use food to numb our feelings (or any other substance for that matter), and / or as a way to fill up an internal hole which is not a physical hunger, it may give some short term relief but usually not as a longterm one.
Using food as a substitute for love can have longterm consequences. And not always are these longterm consequences about health impacts either, though it can be a factor that plays a part.
The more immediate consequneces that I am thinking of here is what usually follows eating certain kinds of foods that we may have assigned the label “bad” to; feelings of guilt and shame.
Brené Brown defines guilt as “I did something bad / wrong” and shame as “I am bad / there’s something wrong with me“. Look at this definition, we may realise how counterproductive it is to attach feelings of guilt to what we are eating, and if we go down the shame route, we are all of a sudden skating on thin ice…
How did we get here?? When did we end up with this kind of thought pattern?
This is where I feel opening up some awareness around the subtle messages the dieting culture is imposing on us, becomes very important. That if we don’t eat “clean” we must be eating something that’s “dirty” or bad.
I’ve lost count of how many times in my 20s that I was so entrenched in this kind of thinking. Often feeling disheartened that I could never stick to THE plan, or lose the weight I wanted (so I could finally be happy), when in fact trying to rely on willpower with my blood sugar on a roller coaster all day would make it physically (and mentally!) impossible.
After that one cookie, I’d usually end up having another one and then most of the package because at that point I had moved from feeling guilty about having one into a state of shame.“I’m useless so I may as well keep eating…”
Then I felt even more lonely and sad… Which would continue the cycle of comfort eating. And other times it was the feelings of loneliness that would be the initial trigger. During this time in my life, food was definitely serving as a replacement for love, for me.
Is it possible to break the cycle of using food as substitute for love and arrive at a place where food becomes part of self-love?
I would really like to think so! It may not be an overnight kind of experience, and the journey there may not just be paved with good intention but can also become littered with many blessings of self discovery.
With Halloween just been and the next holiday season only a short while away, it is all to easy to get caught up in “dieting mode”. Restricting and / or feeling guilty about having certain types of foods.
However if you have decided to try stepping off the “dieting treadmill” and are working on healing your relationship with food, then I invite you to be mindful and watch your thoughts with kind non-judging awareness.
Do find yourself feeling guilty after eating sweets / cakes / chocolate?
Do you feel like you need to go on a diet over the next few weeks to get ready for the holiday season ahead, knowing that you may put on some extra few pounds then?
Here’s my ‘two penny’s worth; Please don’t.
Instead of focusing on letting go of certain kinds of foods, focus on letting go of the guilt, so that you don’t let any guilt feed into shame.
Learn to listen to your body and trust it’s wisdom.
What foods make you feel great? What would it look like for you if food and eating formed part of caring for yourself from a place of kindness and selfcare?
Don’t forget that there’s more to food than calories and sugar. And there’s more to eating that worrying about same.
Give yourself permission to;
Let your whole self be nourished by the entire experience of eating food that has been grown with care and cooked with love, and if possible in the pleasure of great company.
THAT is medicine for body, mind and soul. <3