Putting Food in Perspective: Celebrations and All

You can’t just turn your back on food. Substances that some people struggle with such as tobacco and alcohol are optional, but food isn’t optional. We need food for our very being, whereas smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol are not necessary for life.

Food is an integral part of our social lives as well. We all know that in our heart, but what happens when we begin to use food as more than just a necessity for survival, and begin relying on food to fill needs for which it was not intended?

Socrates said:

Eat to live, not live to eat.

Even though Socrates wasn’t writing about weight management, his thought is still applicable today. For thousands of years humans have used food to mark celebrations. Think about the ancient religious celebrations and the rite of passages those cultures celebrated with special feasts and meals. Food is timeless, and is still important to us for our bodily health and held in a place of importance in our social lives as well.

When I struggled with my own obesity, I wasn’t just eating to live. I used food as both a source of fuel for my body and a salve for my emotions. In a lot of ways, I began using food in an inappropriate way.

There were only rare moments throughout the day where I wasn’t thinking about food.

It didn’t matter if I was brushing my teeth, working on the computer, blow drying my hair, or playing with the children. I was oftentimes thinking about food. I’d think about what food I had in the pantry, whether I should drive to McDonald’s for a milkshake, or consider if I had time prepare a fancy dessert for after the evening meal.

Even while eating dinner and the dessert I’d just prepared, I’d be thinking about what my after-dinner snack would be. Would I rather have ice cream and chocolate syrup or tortilla chips smothered with cheese?

Food was my ever present mental companion.

When we think about eating to live and not allowing food to rule us or or emotions, we have to think about what that shift in attitude looks like in real life. Some of us are super disciplined and never stray beyond whole, clean foods for the rest of our  lives, and we really do use food as a source of nourishment and rarely think of food in an inappropriate way as I so often did.

But for many people, that strict existence is difficult. It is for me. Personally, I do still make special foods for people’s birthdays, make special desserts for celebrations, and do associate certain foods with holidays. (Think pecan pie at Thanksgiving.) Because I still have six kids living at home, a large part of my day is spent planning for and preparing meals and snacks.

But I no longer live my life to eat, nor do I spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about food.

My views of food have transformed over the years from being almost obsessive about it to enjoying it in a more healthy way.

In the morning when I wake up, I don’t think about chocolate cake or wonder whether John took all of the leftover soup, nor do I fret when the children start to eat the last of the snacks. Rather I just go on with my morning, not really thinking about food. When it’s time to make breakfast, lunch or dinner, I just make what is on my menu board and keep moving forward with my day.

Food is no longer always on my mind. I still love to eat good food, but I don’t love thinking about food all the time. It’s been very freeing emotionally to let go of focusing on food all day long.

I remember noticing the transition about midway through my weight loss. One day, at about 11:00 in the morning after I had lost about 50 pounds or so, I distinctly recall thinking, “I haven’t thought about extra food all morning.” I had begun the change from an unhealthy obsession with food to a more normal, balanced existence.

How often do you think about food? I’m not saying it’s bad to think about food, because it certainly is not – but it may not be emotionally healthy to think about food all day long, every day, without fail. 

The transition for me came slowly, but it did come. It can come for you too. Diane

16 thoughts on “Putting Food in Perspective: Celebrations and All

  1. Satu says:

    Hi Diane!

    This is very interesting for me, because in my experience dieting (often) doesn’t make people less obsessed about food – it makes them more obsessed. Yet, for you it seemed to happen when you were still losing weight.

  2. Tanvee says:

    Hi Diane,I still think about food the only difference is what I think.I plan all my meals and when I have a party to attend the first thing I think about is a plan to avoid eating unhealthy food, I might not wake up to food thoughts but I surely think about my eating plan most days

  3. Megan says:

    Oh my gosh – I love this post.

    I really do think about food but have been working on thinking it more healthfully and putting the focus on people.

  4. Samantha says:

    I think the transition is happening for me along the way like it did for you. I know understanding the emotional side of food is a huge step for me and maybe one I’ll be learning for years.

  5. Mark says:

    I used to obsess about food to the point of unhealthiness. After losing a substantial amount of weight I find myself thinking about it in terms of what makes me feel satisfied and what foods are good for me. Tha’s a huge shift.

    Have a great Thanksgiving with your family.

  6. Laura says:

    Food is something we always require but not in the quantities that a lot of us eat!

    You are right that food is different than other “vices” because you can never have another cigarette your entire life and be perfectly healthy. (In fact healthier. . .)

    But with food you need it but also NEED to have the right attitude and perspective on it.

  7. Jody - Fit at 56 says:

    I do think about food a lot but more my healthy stuff – & what I might be making for my mini meals although I am boring in that way – but it is not like the old days & it took years to get past that…. 🙂

  8. Stephanie says:

    “Food was my ever present mental companion.”

    I wish I could say that after 18 months at goal, this isn’t the case for me, but I’d be lying if I did. I still love food. I still think about it All. The. Time. But I try to be more mindful of my choices and save the “good” stuff to be a special post-exercise treat. It’s hard, but not impossible!!

    Thanks for the great post!

  9. L says:

    Thanks for this post, Diane. I wonder, did you practice any habits or develop any guidelines that might have helped you let go of obsessive food thoughts. This is one area where I struggle. I could benefit from hearing more about how you mentally pushed yourself away from the table (food pantry, closet, freezer, frig), and escaped the all-day food slave mindset.

  10. Margaret says:

    I don’t think about food obsessively except for holidays. Since I’m the one normally doing the cooking for holidays I try to plan a menu that’s balanced with good stuff as well as the treats. Too many times I’ve gone to events and could only eat salad or pasta. Now I bring my own food. So no I don’t obsess about it, but I do think about it for certain situations!

  11. Caron says:

    I still think about food a lot, but my choices have changed drastically. I too have often bemoaned the fact that we can give up cigarettes and alcohol and that is great, but we cannot live without food. Very good post. 🙂

  12. Hope K says:

    I had a health teacher in 7th grade who liked to say, “Eat to live; don’t live to eat.” It has stuck with me as being great wisdom all these years, but I didn’t realize it came from a Socrates quote. You learn something new every day!

    It is important to accept that eating is not for comfort or fun (excepting rare special days like Thanksgiving). Eating is about giving your body the nutrition it needs to function. That’s it. I think that has been an important belief that I have come to that has helped me shed 40 pounds.

    But I will be eating the yummy food on Thanksgiving! Oh, yeah. 🙂 But ONLY at that one meal.

  13. BlessedMama says:

    I must admit that I think about food A LOT. As a food blogger, I’m having to constantly come up with new recipes. As a homeschooling mom, I’m home all day with kids that want snacks and full lunches. I plan my menus, do big grocery shopping days, and budget, budget, budget for food. I’ve always had an unhealthy relationship with food, whether it was when I didn’t eat it barely at all in my twenties, to when I started to gain weight in my thirties. I’m in the middle of my journey of taking back the control that food has/had on me and seeing it as you do now. What a process!

  14. blackhuff says:

    I too used to think about food constantly when I was obese. I have to say that once I lost the weight and my goals shifted to fitness, it was if a rock rolled off my shoulders because I did not constantly think about food anymore.

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