Food plays a significant role in our culture. Food is usually the main focus at weddings, births, deaths, church functions, social gatherings, and even sporting events. To understand the incredible power we have given food, imagine Thanksgiving without a turkey or a wedding reception without a cake. Food has become a distraction, an addiction, a way to numb our feelings. Food helps us tolerate boredom, anxiety, tiredness, insecurity, fear, loneliness, and sadness. Like other behavioral attempts to manage feelings (drinking, smoking, working, shopping, etc.), food is a temporary solution. We need to partake in our numbing activity when the effects wear off. This cycle continues until something gets our attention, such as weight gain or health loss. Then, we panic and obsess about calorie intake or exercise, or search frantically for a doctor who can fix us. We start another quick fix cycle that’s destined to fail because it doesn’t address the core issue: how we manage emotions.
If you are tired of the quick fix cycle, you will need to learn how not be overwhelmed by your emotions. First, stop burying them with food. To do this, you will first need to demote food to its original and intended role: fuel for your body. Speak to a nutritionist and get the real story on how proteins, fats, and carbohydrates are converted to fuel and what your individual fuel needs are. Then ask for a food plan that focuses on fueling your body for nutrition and health. Treat your body like you treat your car: don’t wait to fuel up until you’re on empty and don’t top off the tank. Also, you wouldn’t consider socializing with a friend while you pump gas into your car, so don’t socialize while you are eating. Since most functions involve eating, I suggest you eat beforehand, and practice focusing on connecting with others.
Imagine Thanksgiving without food. The focus is on connecting with family and friends; worshipping together, playing cards, looking at old photo albums, sitting and talking. If this sounds impossible to you, you are missing out on the greatest gift that God gave us: the ability and need to connect and be with others. Chances are, food is filling in as a temporary guest because you never really learned how to build and maintain genuine, loving relationships. Demote food to its rightful place as fuel and find a therapist to help you make friends with your feelings so that you can share your whole self with others and receive their unconditional love in return.