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Do You Really Love Food?
Clients say that the reason they overeat or eat when they’re not hungry is because they simply “love” food—but I don’t buy it. I know foodies who eat “normally” and folks who eat so quickly and inattentively that they couldn’t possibly enjoy it. Justifying unwanted eating by saying you love food will not help you overcome disregulated eating.
A relevant anecdote. At a party over the holidays, I watched a woman shuttle back and forth to the dessert table, piling her plate high with as many sweets as it would hold. Then she’d sit down and chat with friends until the food was gone and do the same thing all over again, telling them, “I love food. I can’t help myself.” My heart went out to her because I used to eat exactly the same way. In the meantime, I’d found some Turkish sweets I hadn’t had in decades, took two small pieces, and returned to the friends I’d been sitting with. Although I wanted to close my eyes to focus on the taste, I didn’t, but lasered all my attention on what the candies were making happen in my mouth. I stopped talking and tuned out conversation. As far as I was concerned, all that existed in the world were me and my Turkish sweets.
When I ask alleged food lovers if they eat mindfully, they usually confess that they don’t. Instead, they tell me they eat rapidly while doing other tasks, talking to people, with their mind elsewhere, on anything but eating. They claim that certain foods taste so yummy they have to eat them, but when they describe how they eat, I seriously doubt they taste them at all. How can they if they’re shoving one bite into their mouths before the previous one is swallowed, when they don’t chew enough or let food sit on their tongue long enough to absorb flavor, when they eat as if they’re running a marathon.
Think about it: when you love something, you treasure it. When I read a good book, I don’t rush through it. Instead, I want to keep my relationship with it going for as long as possible. I read some words or sentences over and over for the sheer pleasure I receive from them. I read slowly to absorb plot details and characterizations. Same with food. If you really “love” food, you want to spend time with it, luxuriating in each bite and every mouthful. To thoroughly enjoy food, it must be your priority in the moment. You need to sense it with all your senses: see its beauty, hear its pop or crackle, feel its texture on your tongue, and drown yourself in its flavors. That’s what loving food means.
If you tell yourself your unwanted eating is due to loving food, think again. If you were to build a truly loving relationship with food from scratch, tell me, how would you do it?