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I’m intrigued by “foodies.” As I understand the word, it refers to people who are enamored with food. They love the thought of it, its wondrous variety, how it looks and smells and tastes and feels going down. They have an appreciation for fine food, including its exemplary preparation and high quality. Does their relationship with food increase or decrease eating problems among them? An interesting question.

Not being a foodie (and coming from a non-foodie lineage), I can’t speak on the subject from personal experience. My expectation for food is what some have called low. It need be (not necessarily in this order): nutritious most but not all of the time, accessible, palatable, and have sticking power. If it makes my taste buds sing, all well and good. When I talk with foodies, however, I know they have an utterly different experience. They notice subtleties of flavor, texture, and presentation which I don’t. Food is special to them, not just for fuel and occasional pleasure.

This makes me suspect that there is something different about the taste buds of foodies that gives them an appreciation I’ll never have. I’m not talking about questions of good or bad here, only wondering if being a foodie doesn’t make it harder to eat “normally” than if one has less enthusiasm for food in general. Then again, I know of a foodie (a former personal chef) who enjoys food, but doesn’t have an eating problem. All the other self-proclaimed foodies I’ve known tend to run into trouble with food. Which came first, I wonder, the passion for food that makes it hard not to be drawn toward it, or a dysregulated relationship with food that causes preoccupation and obsession with it?

I expect it’s not just the taste buds of foodies that get a kick out of fine cuisine, but that they may have different brain wiring. The pleasure center of their brains may light up brighter than that of non-foodies when eating delicious fare. They may produce more excitatory chemicals than those of us who are plain-Jane eaters. Just as some people get turned on by fine art or exceptional dance, foodies may get their thrills (on a physiological level) from what goes from plate to palate. I’ve also noticed that some people who call themselves foodies eat slowly and enjoy their food while others don’t. I know that positive associations to food make foodies more inclined toward it and that these memories seem part of the foodie experience.

If you consider yourself a foodie, take a minute to reflect on what you base this assessment and whether you really adore food or simply love the idea of eating it.

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