Is there really a connection between food and love?
I’m reading The Amazing Connection Between Food and Love, by Gary Smalley—not the kind of book you expect to be sucked into, but I was. My relationship with food has been love/hate since my teens and, though in the last four months I’ve had some major victories, I’m still seeing the emotional and physical affects of my dietary choices.
Smalley describes this cycle: Food affects our emotional health>Emotional health affects our relationships>Relationships affect physical health>Emotional/physical health affect our food choices—which affects our emotional health, and on it goes.
I considered myself a ‘food addict.’ I thought about food all day, I overate regularly, and if there was a table of sweets or snacks to be had, I’d eat like it was a contest. I couldn’t stop myself.
My Mom always fed us square, nutritious meals and we were a long ways from a convenience store, so as a kid I rarely had access to chips or candy. But when I moved out and into town, a bag of Doritos was only a five-minute walk away. And when I’d spent all day at work salivating over the thought, what could stop me from getting them?
I told myself I wasn’t massive, and my muscular frame seemed to hide that I was well over two-hundred pounds, but I knew I was overweight and I was ashamed of it. When I bought chips, I’d eat them when my sister wasn’t home and then hide them when she was around. I’d try to stuff the pizza box deep into the recycling.
‘Something’s wrong with me,’ I’d say. ‘I’m such a loser. I’ve got no self-control.’
Though working on my feet and travelling by bicycle kept me from gaining weight too fast, the constant cycle of dreaming of food, giving in and eating, and then guilt-tripping, was taking its toll. I wanted to feel like a winner.
Looking back, I believe I was an emotional eater—food was a reward, comfort, or entertainment. This set up a cycle of eating to feel better, being guilty and making myself sad, and then eating again to feel better. Plus, those foods I ate were the very sort that make the body want more: highly processed carbs, sugar and chemicals.
Did this take a toll on my relationships?
Certainly extra weight, acne (which went away when I cleaned up my diet), and failed attempts to lose weight, eroded my self-confidence. Teens have enough confusion as it is, but I was under the delusion that because I was chubby and had acne, I wasn’t good enough to be friends with the ‘pretty’ girls, and certainly not ‘girlfriend material’ for the guys. How many relationships did I miss out on because of my poor self-esteem? Oh, if I could give my current confidence to my thirteen-year-old self.
I’m a moody person, and cleaning up my diet has only alleviated this slightly. In my mid-teens I went through a period of extreme mood swings. I’d be happy one moment, and then so irritable that no one could stand beside me because their breathing got on my nerves. My hormones were out of balance, causing issues with my menstrual cycle and causing me to sprout hair on my chin like a boy that age would.
The doctor told me I needed to lose weight and I scoffed but I did it. After a month of eating 7-8 servings of fruit and veggies a day and limiting other foods, my cycle normalized. Supplements took care of my mood-swings. I slimmed down just in time to fit into my grad dress.
What kind of pain did I cause my family because of my mood swings? Was my diet at fault?
I think it’s common knowledge that when we’re hungry, we’re tired and grumpy. Still, it wasn’t until a few months ago that I began to truly associate food and mood. Some of you may remember me posting about how depressed I was, coupled with a photo of me making a breakfast sandwich at 1:00 am.
I’m still a definite foodie. I ‘have’ to enjoy my food, or I see no point in it. So, though I eat sugar free, low carb, high-protein and lots of whole foods, I still think about food several times a day. If chips are put in front of me, I still can’t say no, but if I think about buying snacks I usually say “I’ll have some on the weekend,” and when the time comes, I often don’t buy them. I still feel the need to hide junk food, but I try to make myself own up to it, and tell my Mom or sister that I had pizza on Friday night. I want to enjoy the occasional treat without shame. I guess it will take some time to work out of the old, harmful, emotional habits.
After four months of this lifestyle (read about Trim Healthy Mama here and here), I’ve seen victories beget victories. I began by controlling what I ate. After I started losing weight, I decided to try working out, and realized that I enjoyed it (the benefits at least). Now I have dreams of running a 5k race. My body confidence is higher, and my pant-size is lower but most of all, I know I can do what I say I will do. I’ve built trust with myself. No doubt, that will improve my relationships.
I plan to explore this topic further as I continue reading the book. What do you think? What connections between food, love and relationships have you seen in your life?