Food and I have always had a bit of a rocky relationship. They say that no relationship is perfect, that there are always areas to improve upon in any given romance, and that is no exception when it comes to me and my beloved noshing habits.
Let us set a scene:
It’s a lazy Sunday evening.
You’re rewatching The Office for the 130943843943758th time.
Jim is sweeping Pam off of her feet like he often does, and you’re thinking to yourself — why can’t I have a man love me like that? When will I ever find a love like that? Will I ever find a love like that?
You sigh, while shoving a fistful of processed garbage down your throat from your oversized bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos. It gives you comfort knowing that your Cheetos will always be there for you.
Your Cheetos will never leave you.
Your Cheetos will make you feel wonderful and ecstatic and fulfilled in the same way that Jim makes Pam feel wonderful and ecstatic and fulfilled.
Annoyed with how adorable Jim and Pam are, you throw a handful of Hot Cheetos at the screen.
Then pick them up and eat them.
This is your life now.
And because you’ve already surrendered to this pathetic state, you decide to order a whole pizza. Might as well, you’re already at the point of no return, right?
It’s super easy to turn to food when you’re feeling unfulfilled in your life.
If you’re hoping for a boyfriend, you replace him with a chocolate cake.
If you are desperately hungry for that dream job but keep getting rejection letters, you’ll replace that ambitious hunger for actual hunger — the kind of hunger that leaves you unbuttoning your pants from the bloating while you cry into your box of Krispy Creams- then carry on eating them. Your tears add a nice salty flavor to the mix, so you shrug and munch on.
Eating our feelings is extremely unhealthy, so how do we break the cycle here? How do we stop jeopardizing our relationship with food, our one true love who will never leave us?
There are two types of people in this world: The people who eat food to heal emotions, and the people who eat food as a source of fuel.
Most of us, without realizing it, eat both for fuel and as an emotional escape.
Our breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals are our source of fuel, while our late night bowl of popcorn while watching HBO is our source of emotional fulfillment. It knocks off that feeling of boredom we get when there’s nothing to do but watch reruns of a show you’ve already memorized. We don’t need that popcorn, but it adds to the viewing experience.
The same can apply when we grab a hot dog and beer at a baseball game or a blue cotton candy at a carnival. They aren’t necessary to eat, we certainly don’t need them, but they add to the spirit of your event as well as the excitement that comes from it.
This same logic can apply to nearly every American holiday imaginable.
Halloween candy, Christmas cookies, Chanukah gelt, Thanksgiving feast, Valentine's chocolates etc. We associate certain moments and atmospheres with food. We associate moods with food, weather with food, dates with food, etc. etc. etc.
Hell, I’ll admit that I even associate TV shows with food. If I’m gonna marathon The Sopranos, you best bet I’ll be doing so with a giant bowl of spaghetti and meatballs right in front of me.
The key here is to no longer eat in order to fulfill a certain emptiness in your life. With that in mind, we should stop using food as a way to ease any given emotion such as sadness, bitterness, or fear.
The French stay thin because they have a strong belief that you should only eat when you’re hungry. Not only is this a great way to practice eating for fuel rather than for fun, but it also increases the quality of the food.
Think about it. When you’re starving, Hospital food can taste like something cooked up by Bobby Flay because your taste buds are more appreciative when you haven’t eaten since noon.
So give your body the appreciation it deserves by eating simply when you feel hungry. It will keep the pounds off, it will satisfy you, and it will boost your mood. Your relationship with food doesn’t have to be complicated, co-dependent, or neglectful. Like any relationship, it works best when it is a benefit to your life rather than the one true source that your whole world revolves around.