Growing up, us girls looked forward to when my mom was gone overnight. Of course, her hugs and helpful words were missed. However, dad always let us eat dessert for breakfast. In fact, we often chanted, “Dad is great! He serves us chocolate cake.”
Little did I know that he taught us this chant directly from Bill Cosby, his favorite comedian. In fact, I found a video of this very joke.
Anyway, this clip is silly but brings up a good point. Food is food. It gives us nutrition and fuels our bodies. As long as we have variety and the right amount, our bodies know how to use the calories and nutrients.
So often we assign meaning to food. These feelings and thoughts we attach to what we eat can be positive or negative. For example, a child sees ice cream as a reward for being good. Meanwhile, someone struggling with anorexia views it as a sign of being greedy. Mashed potatoes and turkey makes one person feel loved and comfy but make another sick and anxious thinking about past thanksgivings. Pizza for many people brings the excitement and joy of some sort of party.
Our past experiences and memories influence how we look at food more than we realize. Because I have done work trying to uncover my reactions to feared foods, I can tell you an emotion or story behind almost anything that is eatable. Hot dogs make me lonely because they remind me of huge picnics. Ice cream triggers desire and attempts to numb emotions with binges. Frosted cookies bring thoughts of inadequacy when I remember people belittling their taste and thereby my like of them. It is interesting how small words or events from the past can influence us today without us even realizing it.
However, as I mentioned before, food is just food. Having what your body needs – not more or less – is what is important. Therapists and dietitians drilled into my head all through treatment that “all food can work in a meal plan.” Cake fits as a dessert or a few grains and a fat. Green bean casserole is a vegetable, fat, and grain. French fries are a grain and a fat. It is as simple as that. Those are just food that is eatable and healthy to your body in the right amounts.
Seeing food as just what it is – food – helps me to not be so afraid. My body knows how to deal with it. In fact, my body longs for nutrition even when my mind screams that I do not need it. If you have never thought about what emotions or judgements you attach to food or memories you have concerning it, I suggest that you explore the idea for a little while. You might be surprised at what you find. Just remember, that food is fuel that keeps our bodies running and our minds working.