There is so much that we can learn from our relationship with food. Whether it be characterized by deprivation, indulgence, guilt, love, fear, anxiety, distraction, companionship, happiness, survival, or a combination of the above, what and how we eat provides us with a window into our tendencies and habits, and perhaps even the imbalances in our life.
For me, I notice a tendency to turn to food when I am feeling lonely. Anyone with me? I’m not so much a stress eater, although I do this at times too, and I don’t necessarily find myself turning to toxic—sugary, fried, or heavily processed—foods (mostly because I refuse to keep them in the house), but in the past few years, as my self-awareness has been nurtured with daily practice, I have come to realize that I rely on food to provide me with a sense of companionship and fulfillment when no one is around.
Of course, I am far from alone in this world. I am blessed with so many supportive relationships and people in my life who would be there for me in a heartbeat if only I reached out. But, what is it? Why do I choose to turn to food instead?
I think it is because, like most people, I have always found comfort in food. From birth to now, food has been associated with nurturing, survival, family, love and pleasure. Additionally, mindlessly eating (or mindlessly doing anything for that matter) is an extremely effective way to distract the mind from the root cause of dis-ease—which on some level is stemming from fear.
As someone who has always be relatively thin and small, on the outside this tendency may not seem like a problem; however, inside it is extremely damaging. As someone who knows the potentially harmful effects of overeating, especially before bed—disruptive sleep, fat storage, suboptimal detoxification and higher levels of toxicity in the body, accelerated aging, to name a few—this tendency to eat mindlessly and too much in states of perceived loneliness goes directly against my core values of health, longevity, self-love, living with intention, environmental stewardship, and so on.
Most importantly, eating in this way is not an act of love, it is an act of fear.
In my life, I have learned that living in dissonance (when our behaviors are not in alignment with our goals and values, with what we want for ourselves) is perhaps even more harmful and paralyzing than the physical outcomes of “bad habits”.
Long story short, I’m working on it, and may always be working on it. I do know, however, that when I am in loving company this tendency is extinguished! Additionally, when I am in a state of deeply loving and respecting myself, I can easily choose not to pollute my body. I’ve found that self-love is most accessible when I am consistently acting out of love, not fear.
From these realizations, I have learned two things:
1. I have come to understand just how important relationships are to me. I know that I must put time into cultivating my relationships or else my mental and physical health will suffer. To me, this is just as much a priority as everything on my “to do” list.
2. I must stay true to my practice of meditation and use it, even for just 5 seconds, anytime I feel fear arise. Meditation allows me to tune into my wholeness, my “okay-ness”, no matter what. It radiates into my daily life by making me more self-aware and more intentional about my decisions around food. A constant meditation practice allows me to consistently choose love over fear.
I am forever thankful for these insights. And forever thankful for my love of food, for it has taught me so much about what true health really feels like.
What can you learn about yourself from your relationship with food?
What about your life is causing dis-ease and what role do food or other substances play in sedating this resistance?
What about your current eating habits and tendencies is not in alignment with your goals, values and deepest desires for yourself?
In what ways are you acting out of fear instead of love?
Disclaimer: This post is not intended for people who are starving, for they have an entirely different relationship with food to which I cannot relate. To be able to reflect in this capacity on the role that food plays in our lives is a sign of abundance—keep this in mind next time you lament in your food-driven struggles. Laugh at yourself, keep it light, love yourself, and express compassion (talk to yourself like you would your beloved). And most importantly, remember that your life is ABUNDANT! You are ok.
And remember, health is not about being perfect, it’s about being intentional and aware.
Allie Andrews is the Founder and Program Director at OmBody Health. She is a Certified Health Coach, author, and is pursuing her Master’s Degree in Education with a focus in Corporate Wellness. Allie and her team have been transforming employee wellbeing since 2014. Learn more.