Healing Our Tumultuous Relationship with Food
I was recently enjoying a casual scroll through Instagram after a mini-hiatus and noticed an overwhelming number of influencers persuading women to take appetite suppressants and partake in the latest fad diets. I couldn’t help but scoff bitterly at the seeming lack of progress around our societal views on women’s nutrition. However, these influencers are merely reflecting the times; which not only include media, but also our culture, education, sociopsychological priorities, and values. This led me to ask myself, “Have you ever taken a moment to examine your personal relationship with food?”
So I examined it and found that I have a wonderful, dynamic, sensual relationship with food. I’ve come to celebrate flavors, seasonings, temperatures of all sorts. I’ve experienced the most intimate conversations, most connected family time, the most dazzling sexcapades when food is included. I’m one of lucky ones who has been able to achieve an orgasm from eating peanut butter let alone a platter of sushi from an enchanting restaurant in Costa Rica (pictured here). Food is love, incredible love. Safe to say, when it cums to me and food, I shall never go without.
Most people hardly think of food as a concept that one can relate to, but we do, don’t we? Food can serve us, make us more social, remind us of home, unravel our nerves, trigger an insecurity, and so much more. In terms of a relationship, I for one can say that food and I have been through it. Our relationship could be described as rocky, untrusting, and on the fritz, at times. But through deeper self-questioning, experimentation, failures, and more expansive self-compassion, I’ve been able to start the journey of unlearning and relearning some tenets of developing a healthy, loving relationship with food. I hope you will too.
Why Our Relationship With Food Matters
Although women of colour are stereotypically unafflicted by disordered eating by way of body dissatisfaction, statistics prove otherwise. For example, Hispanic and Asian girls are found to be at greater risk for adopting eating disorder behaviors than white girls. The abuse of laxatives/diuretics, fasting, and recurrent binge-eating is found more commonly among Black women than among White women. Stephanie Armstrong struck an empathic nerve when she said, “I thought I was the only Black person who didn’t know how to eat”. Case in point, we all could benefit from reexamining our relationship with food. What’s the big deal? It is best stated by Geneen Roth, author of When Food is Love, “Eating is a metaphor for the way we live; it is also a metaphor for the way we love. Excessive fantasizing, creating drama, the need to be in control, and wanting what is forbidden are behaviors that block us from finding joy in food or relationships.”
For women who are interested in courageously applying the liberating concepts of feminism and womanism, one may note that diet has been a forever target of patriarchal disciplinary power. Megan Dean notes that with the methods perpetuated by influencers and the like, “eating is problematized as a way to manage the body’s appearance, to bring it into conformity with feminine norms, and also as an ongoing opportunity to exercise the will over unruly bodily desires…this self-management entails heavy restriction, strict discipline, and steadfast self-surveillance.” From this view, reconstructing our relationship to food allows us to resist patriarchy, fighting for the freedom of body, sustenance, and mind.
How To Begin Healing Your Relationship With Food
- Revisit old wounds: Take some time exploring the root of this emotional burden. Would we rather focus on our bodies than love or be loved? Are we over-indulgent because food provides a distraction from pain? Do we think trusting ourselves is equivalent to gaining permission to binge? I love food, I hate food; why? Once we begin to take a deep dive into the meaningfulness of these relational woes, talking to a therapist may also help. Anyone with a tumultuous relationship with food can benefit by “learning to stay in the present, beginning to value ourselves now, giving the hungry child within us a voice, trusting our physical and emotional fits of hunger, and teaching ourselves to receive pleasure”, When Food is Love.
- Create space for experimentation: There are plenty of ways to go about implementing a strategy that works best for you, but taking the time to decide or create one that is custom-made, is what counts. Talk to a nutritionist, read into the philosophies of mindful eating and intuitive eating, try both, practice insight meditation, allow yourself to fluctuate through, and listen to your body’s response. For example, Geneen Roth’s eating philosophy is a variant of intuitive eating:
- Eat when you are hungry.
- Eat sitting down in a calm environment. This does not include the car!
- Eat without distractions (e.g. radio, television, newspapers, books, intense or anxiety-producing conversations, and music).
- Eat only what your body wants.
- Eat until you are satisfied.
- Eat with enjoyment, gusto, and pleasure.
- Find a style: After having experimented, it’s important to decide which lifestyle works best for you. Not just creating goals for the sake of being goal-oriented. We know you’re fabulous! But what does wellness look like to you? How can you respect your body while fostering a sense of balance and safety for yourself?
- Get support: The larger context of our relationship to food is how we relate to others. Depending on your culture, family, friends, work environment, a nutritional adjustment can isolate you or put you in the spotlight. It’s important to build relationships with others who share your goals or empathize with you.
Ultimately, I would love to live in a world that encourages women to develop a strong relationship with her natural instincts. A world that urges such women to repress hungers represent a much deeper psychological suppression, a pervasive societal rejection of a women’s natural life. Healing this wound is possible and has countless benefits.
“The purpose of healing is not to be forever happy; that is impossible. The purpose of healing is to be awake, to live while you are alive instead of dying while you are alive. It is a process.”
By tending to the unique needs, quirks, and delights of our bodies, we overhaul oppression, celebrate the fullness of our autonomy, and become incredibly well-nourished influencers in our own communities. We begin to embody love… by the pound.