Ya’ll. I’m a recovering mindless and emotional eater.
Some days are better than others.
When we think about “being in relationship” with someone or something, we often think about 1) What we are contributing to the relationship and 2) What we are able to get out of the relationship (how it is significant to us). Now riddle yourself this: How familiar are you with your relationship with food? I know this may seem like a strange question, but think for a moment if you had to personify your relationship with food. Is it:
- A vital relationship, one used for sustenance, energy, and feeling uplifted?
- One of great comfort—an essential element used in coping and providing safety and comfort?
- A “love-hate” relationship that tends to be inconsistent, intense, and at times even guilt-ridden?
We don’t often think about “personifying” our relationship with food, as food is an object. However, for most Americans, food goes beyond being merely an object (like this girl right here). Food tends to be an activity, a means to gather/come together, a cultural experience, an opportunity to create/experiment, and even a “comfort tool.” Scripture has long taught us that food is God’s means of helping his people to be sustained and have energy toward serving Him and furthering his kingdom—and what a wonderful gift this is. Unfortunately, like many wonderful gifts from God, we as sinful humans tend to twist and alter the purpose that God intended and created his gift to be. We at times tend to use food as:
- A way to feel “in control” when life seems to be spinning out of control
- An over-the-top comfort tool (satisfying our need for comfort through food)
- A way to “pass the time”—even if our body is not in need at the time
- A means to “numb” or “distract”—using food as a way to avoid a current struggle or situation
I think it’s safe to say that we all have fallen into one of these traps at one time or another—perhaps on a smaller scale like pulling out more cookies than our body needs after a tough day at the office, or even on a larger scale to the point where it becomes a consistent issue or worry. Wherever you lie on this spectrum, the following may apply to all: We need to pay more attention to our relationship with food!
When I say “pay more attention to our relationship with food,” I am talking about more than portion control and eating healthy food items (although these are also key elements of our relationship with food! However, this was not enough for me, and is not enough for most people). I am also talking about our emotional relationship with food, or our interpretation of the purpose that food serves in our lives. When we use food beyond the scope of what God designed it to be for his children (sustenance and energy), we may be digging ourselves into a hole of struggles.
What if we more often stopped and asked ourselves this question: What am I REALLY craving?
At times, the answer may be very simple: “I’m craving FOOD! It’s past my lunchtime and I am running low on fuel and energy.” Fair enough! But if we really take the time to pause and ask ourselves this key question, we may find ourselves experiencing a variety of “cravings,” all of which we are trying to satiate with food:
“I’m actually feeling bored: I want to munch to pass the time when what I really desire is an enjoyable activity to engage in.”
“I’m really in need of comfort: I’m feeling insecure in the present situation, and want more than anything to feel calm and comforted.”
“What I really want right now is to feel more in control: life just seems to keep spinning, and I can’t seem to catch a grip on it. I really want to feel more in control in this moment.”
“My guilt is driving me right now: what I truly desire is to feel relieved of this shame and be able to be honest about the present situation.”
When we are clouded by these underlying emotions and “cravings,” food may seem to be the only answer to that current struggle. Food tends to provide us with that instant gratification and means of avoidance, but when looking deeper, food may be unable to satisfy the true underlying need we are experiencing. However, if we do not pause to ask ourselves the following key question before making our food decisions, it is truly difficult to see any alternative means of coping, or even that we may be craving something other than food: Am I really craving what I am physically putting into my mouth, or am I craving something deeper, like personal connection, safety, or enjoyment of my time? To satiate the TRUE “craving,” we need to know what our body is really asking of us. More times than not, the answer may not be food.
Maybe this post posed more questions than it did answers—which is great that you’re examining yourself in light of this! There is so much more I could say on this, and I would love to talk with you about your personal relationship with food, as well as some of the deeper underlying “cravings” you may be experiencing. It is essential to understand our bodies and what they truly need of us! I need to do this daily with myself, and need to surround myself with a supportive community that understands my need to do this.
So my tribe of emotional-eaters-in-recovery, holler at me!