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The Concept of Having a Relationship with Food

I probably use the words “our relationship with food” at least once a day working with clients, posting on my message board, or in my writings, but I never stopped to think about the meaning of the phrase until a HYPERLINK "http://group.yahoo.com/groups/foodandfeelings" Food and Feelings message board member shared her thoughts on their usage. What exactly do we mean when we say we have a relationship with food?

The WORLD BOOK DICTIONARY defines relationship as “a connection; the state or condition that exists between people or groups that deal with one an another.” The AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY says it’s “the condition or fact of being related.” What does that mean regarding food? Is food something we have a real relationship with or is the concept simply invented and culturally accepted?

Let’s remember that the sole evolutionary purpose of food is to nourish and keep us alive. The fact that food tastes delish is, through eons of evolution, only to make it more palatable to us so we’ll eat it. I’ve written before about the rush of dopamine we get from high fat and sugar foods which draw us to them. This rush served an evolutionary purpose. In ancient times, the relationship between us and food was as follows: eat and live, don’t eat and die.

Fast forward to today when we’ve been sold a false bill of goods about the meaning of food—love, passion, fun, excitement, solace. Food is among the many commodities to which industry, marketing and the media have encouraged our attachment to increase sales. We wish to cherish our cars and material possessions, to have some sort of meaningful relationship with them. We expect them to do something fabulous for the way we feel and to enhance who we are. By believing that we have this kind of relationship with food, we create artificial expectations that misdirect our energies away from bona fide relationships. From others—people with whom we benefit from having an emotional attachment. From ourselves—instead of connecting to our wants, needs and appetites, we disconnect from our internal desires and, instead, connect to food.

The first step in breaking this faux relationship is to look at food as an inert object incapable of giving us anything beyond sustenance and occasional pleasure. The second is to reconnect with ourselves, deeply and fully. And, the third is to look for anything beyond physical nourishment and mild pleasure elsewhere. When we have significant relationships with ourselves and others, food becomes, well, just food.

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