I hear a lot about food from my clients — and it’s often about LIVING TO EAT VS EATING TO LIVE. The DIFFERENCE generally revolves around whether the individual has a problem with food — and with weight and diet — rather than a person joyful about preparing, serving, and consuming food.
The basic “therapeutic point:” Most of us are quite DIFFERENT when it comes to food and our attitudes, feelings, and behaviors. And those differences are typically put in place in childhood. Childhood experiences, the attitudes and behaviors formed, typically carry into adulthood — often on a significantly unconscious level — unless pulled out and examined.
Think about your years of growing up– what, where, and how meals were consumed. What do you remember? Did you sit down regularly for family meals? Eat on the run? Prepare meals as a family? Have a designated cook? Grab take out almost every night? Were you encouraged to help prepare food or do the clean up? Did you learn about food, nutrition, and food preparation? Do you even remember much about childhood experiences with food? Some might have been quite wonderful? Some unpleasant beyond the imagination? Family dynamics about food and the consumption of food — are amazingly different.
What you learned growing up typically defines whether you have “issues” and challenges with food and consequently with weight…. or whether food in general is fun and pleasurable.
My personal experience is a “mix.” Growing up, I did not learn to cook. First, because my mother didn’t particularly like cooking herself …and wasn’t interested in teaching me. My father was traditional …he did NOT cook. They wanted me to study vs be in the kitchen. However, I WAS expected to help with dishes unless I had a test to prepare for. Otherwise I was not “in the kitchen.” The result: On a day to day basis I don’t really cook and I find ways to prepare food that keeps me nutritionally sound and healthy. I’m an “eat to live” person — except when eating out…or at the homes of great cooks! Then I relax and enjoy most foods.
Multiple clients talk about food as a dominant force in their lives. On the positive side, there are those who are creative gourmets….who cook and eat and entertain around food….and it stays healthy and positive. Beyond that however are the individuals challenged by food — where “living to eat” becomes destructive, and weight is both a health and self esteem issue.
To explore, ask/reflect on these ideas and questions….
-Do you wake up and go to bed thinking about food?
-Do you binge? And do you binge secretly?
-Do you read food labels? i.e. examining labels for excess sugar, fats, and words you can’t even pronounce?
-Do you understand that some foods have an addictive quality? those include sugar, wheat, dairy, certain fats, artificial sweeteners, and those things you again can’t pronounce
-Can you recognize the difference between “body hunger” and “mind or mouth hunger”
-Do you sometimes eat because you are bored?
-Do you worry regularly about weight and how your body looks?
-Are you avoiding meetings and/or social events where you will be eating?
These few questions just get you started. If you find your food awareness is lacking — even with just a few of these questions, I suggest you talk to someone; pay attention without blame or self punishing attitudes; and simply move in the direction of learning good self care that includes enjoying food, eventually free from guilt or other negative feelings. Eating to live….and further enjoying that process guilt and worry free is the goal. I truly believe you can do this, and I also believe many people need help to get started or change direction. Talking WILL help, regardless of how challenging it may feel. As always, let me know if you have questions. And remember you deserve to feel good.