WHAT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD SAYS ABOUT YOU
In our world of health and weight loss camps, we hear a plethora of questions about what, when, and how much should we eat? But for all this information, the discussion about our relationship with food is non-existent at best. It seems that we live in a culture that is dependent on sound information about weight loss, of which there is none. To be sure, when I say sound information about weight loss, I am speaking of information about weight loss that incorporates information pertaining to your relationship with food. Without this integral piece of information, the changes we may make in the what, when, and how much categories of our weight loss will only be first order changes. First order changes are changes in behavior, not the underlying thoughts, and feelings that support behavior. The failure of this band-aid approach is evidenced by the lack of weight loss success in this country. In order to create second order changes, or changes in the thoughts and feelings that support the behavior of weight loss, we must change not only what, when, and how much we eat, but our attitude toward food. In order to change this, we must first understand it. As we do, we will likely find that our attitude toward food represents not just a pattern in our behavior around food, but our behavior in life in general. That being said, it is not uncommon to find that the way you are around food, is the way you are about many things in life. So let’s explore a few different attitudes toward food, and the ways in which these attitudes affect our lives:
- THE CONTROLLER: Do you view food as something in your life that can be controlled? Do you depend on your control of food to gain a sense of control of your life? Do you find yourself turning to food to overcome emotions or situations that are not within your control? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you probably do have a tendency to view food as control. People such as this tend to look for things in their life that can be regulated, structured, managed and consistent. When they find these things, they tend to depend on them for emotional stability. What this means is that when that thing in the person’s life is stable, regulated, managed, and consistent, so is the person. But when that thing is not consistent, stable, or controlled, neither are the person’s emotions. People such as this, do not like changes in routine, and have trouble adjusting when plans do not go as expected. Much of what perpetuates this trouble adjusting to changes in routine is the expectation that things should not change unless the person changes them. People such as this, rely on the ability to control things, and can have trouble delegating authority to others, or trusting them with control. Using the relationship with food as a way to feel in control can then predispose this person to eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, or bulimia nervosa. However, perhaps the larger issue is that this person is prone to depression and anxiety, as a life that is dependent on control ceases to have a sense of freedom, enjoyment, or passion.
- THE DEPENDENT: Do you feel as though food provides comfort for you? Do you find yourself nurtured by food? Do you turn to food when you feel depressed, or rejected? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you have a tendency to view food as something to be depended on. People such as this, tend to look for things in their life that represent comfort. This can be in the form of a relationship, a place, a thing, or food. As these things will provide emotional comfort, every time they feel depressed, they will turn to those things. For people such as this, emotional stability is dependent on the availability of these things. As they tend to look for ways in their life to feel nurtured, they also do not like to be in control, and would rather delegate authority than experience it. However, looking to other people and things to fulfill their emotional needs, these people are prone to overeating, and feeling as though their life is without direction, or firm anchoring.
- THE ANGRY PERSON: Do you feel as though diet plans and weight loss attempts have let you down? Do you tend to find yourself often angry, and looking for a way to vent? Does food provide an opportunity for you to get what you really want when you are not able to in other ways in your life? If you answered yes to any of these questions you have a tendency to be an angry eater. People such as this tend to be angry in life easily, and often experience this emotion predominantly. As they experience anger frequently, they also feel as though life, people, and situations have let them down. As they cannot change any of these situations that have disappointed them, they look for a way to express their anger. In fact, they become dependent on these situations. They may find themselves feeling attached to things in their life that allow them to express their anger. For this reason, they will often stay in relationships that they describe as bad. These relationships allow them to express their anger. Food, to these people, also represents a way to express anger, and they will often find themselves eating when they are angry. Much in the same way that they will stay in a bad relationship because it is a way for them to express their anger, they will also want to maintain their relationship with food. They may ask for help, or attempt to change their eating habits, but they remain attached to the angry relationship they have with food. Because people such as this have trouble letting go of their anger, they are also prone to self destructive behavior and patterns in life.
- THE LOST PERSON: Do you find yourself trying routine after routine in your weight loss efforts? Do you find that your weight loss efforts go well when you are on a routine, yet things seem to fall apart when the routine ends? Do you often have trouble knowing what food will satisfy you? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you have a tendency to feel lost around food. People such as this tend to be unsure not just about what they may want to eat, but about a lot of things in life in general. They tend to do well when the expectations are set out for them, and the routine is implemented for them. But when it comes to developing their own expectations of themselves, or creating their own routine, they falter. They tend to never really be sure about what they want, and their relationship with food demonstrates this. It is almost as if as long as the eating routine satisfies someone else, they are satisfied. But they never really know what satisfies them. For this reason, people such as this are prone to feelings of loneliness, and loss of hope. It becomes difficult for these people to feel confident and sure of themselves as they feel as they don’t understand themselves frequently. That being said, they may also have trouble knowing when they truly hungry or not, and/or differentiating hunger and fullness levels. As a result of this, they can be prone to overeating, and undereating.
Looking at the types above, see if you can determine your attitude toward food. If you can, you are already one step ahead. Typically, when people understand not just their relationship with food, but themselves more clearly, the needed changes are also more salient. Additionally, when you can see that your relationship with food is a component of a larger pattern in your life, the impetus to change will be strengthened. When you do make these needed changes, although they may be challenging and difficult at times, it is important to recognize that lasting change includes changing not just what, when, and how much you eat, but also they way you think and feel about food, yourself, and your life.