Posts Tagged ‘Relationship to Food’
When nutrition professionals talk about “befriending food,” they usually do so in the context of eating disorders. They point out the importance of not seeing “food as the enemy,” as one well-known author put it, or “making peace with food,” as others have counseled. For me – also a nutrition expert – it’s a much simpler proposition. Loving food is to understand what it does, how it nourishes us, and also to appreciate what it takes to make good food available.
Food, especially ‘real’ food, is a wonderful thing. It should never be taken for granted, wasted, or disregarded for all the benefits it provides. “Let food be your medicine,” the Greek physician Hippocrates famously said. Indeed, food can keep us healthy and help us fight and overcome disease.
Unfortunately, it’s no secret that most people are alienated from their food supply. Few of us know, or care to know, where our food comes from, how it is processed or prepared, and how we benefit from it. Yes, we have more nutritional information than ever given to us, but such data are oftentimes either confusing or outright misleading.
To understand the true value of food is to understand what the body requires to fully function. I know, it sounds corny when health counselors sometimes advise their clients to ‘listen’ to their body, but it does make sense. The body does make its needs known if we pay attention.
Just ask yourself how you feel after eating a big meal? Probably sluggish. After too much fat intake? Sick. After a highly nutritious boost? Energized – right? Your body lets you know right away what you have done to it.
Our relationship with food is tricky. Even if it’s dysfunctional, we cannot put an end to it, unlike with alcohol or drug use. We can’t live without food. It’s essential to our existence.
But when the way we eat makes us sick and causes us diseases like obesity, diabetes or heart disease, we need to recalibrate and develop a different approach to how we handle the presence of food in our lives.
Throughout my years as a dietitian and health counselor, I have seen many clients with an antagonistic attitude towards food, while still exhibiting addictive behavior they seemingly could not overcome. Yes, there is such a thing as a love-hate relationship with food. They couldn’t enjoy eating, and they couldn’t resist it either.
What is the answer to such a dilemma? Learn to love your food, I would say. Because it reflects how you love yourself, and the way you live your life.
“Whether we eat consciously or unconsciously, strategically or randomly, pleasurably or dutifully, with voracious hunger or ho-hum disinterest, we can always see in our relationship with food something true and essential about the way we experience other aspects of our lives,” she says.
In other words, we not only are what we eat, we also choose who we want to be in our relationship with food.
So what does a healthy relationship with food look like in terms of everyday living?
People with a healthy relationship to food eat mindfully, says Sarah Klein, a wellness coach and contributing editor at Huffington Post. Their approach to food is based on moderation, good timing, and planning ahead. They enjoy their food and appreciate its value. They don’t get seduced by fads and trends. And they don’t let diet concerns interfere with their daily routines. In sum, their relationship with food is constructive and empowering, instead of destructive and dysfunctional.
Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®. For more articles on nutrition, health and lifestyle, visit her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.”
Americans feel less assured about the quality of their food than they used to. In a recent survey by Consumer Reports magazine, over 90 percent of respondents said they wanted to know more about what they were eating and would welcome detailed information about food production, including country of origin and genetic modifications.
At the same time, the vast majority of consumers buys its food supply from places that offer convenience and low prices. Those are not organic grocery stores or local farmers markets. One study on changing consumer trends listed Walmart and Target as the new top destinations for food shoppers. Despite the hype in recent years over locally grown fare, farmers markets only came in seventh.
“Its not the places selling organic quinoa and Swiss chard that are getting the grocery business, it’s big box stores, convenience stores, and even pharmacies,” says Anna Brones, a food writer and founder of Foodie Underground.
And it’s not just people on a limited budget who frequent these places. As it turns out, even wealthy people buy their groceries increasingly from non-grocers, according to a report published by Forbes.
What this means is that not only traditional retail categories are more and more blurring, but that food itself is no longer considered and treated as something different from all the other commodities we avail ourselves of.
We don’t think much about where our food comes from and how it gets to our tables, or what has to happen so that our supermarkets’ produce and meat sections can be filled, says Harvey Blatt, a professor of geology and author of “America’s Environmental Report Card” (MIT Press). In most people’s minds, edibles just miraculously appear on shelves. But the fact that our food consumption has become so far removed from agriculture has serious consequences, he warns.
For decades, the American food industry has fought tooth and nails to keep the mechanics of modern food production hidden from the public. Meanwhile, consumers have developed a blissful ignorance of what exactly goes into their meals, whether it’s packaged items from the supermarket or burgers from the fast food chain, writes Rachel Kalisher, a Florida-based food columnist.
Although there are many reports and documentaries shedding light on the darker side of mass food production, it doesn’t seem to dissuade enough people from buying these products. Consequently, the respective industries are not motivated to offer better solutions to feeding a growing world population, Kalisher explains.
Still, she says, not all has to be lost. Consumers have more control than they think. Mindless eating habits and ignorance about food quality is not something we should be willing to live with indefinitely.
Healthy eating is not just a matter of money, although rising food prices are becoming an ever-greater concern. Equally or perhaps more important is education. Here, the damage of much neglect has to be undone.
Especially children and adolescents in America today are perfectly clueless about food, laments Jamie Oliver, celebrity chef and self-appointed crusader for health education in schools. There are virtually no classes in nutrition taught anywhere in the country, and less than 25 percent of high school students receive even a minimum of information about consumer science, formerly known as home economics.
Learning the basics of how food is produced and which foods provide essential nutrients especially young bodies need to grow and function properly should be the first goal for schools and parents to aim for, according to the Jamie Oliver’s Food Foundation, which organizes initiatives and programs that teach children the importance of healthy eating early in life.
Reconnecting with our most fundamental needs such as food may be hard, considering how much we have become estranged, however by supporting and guiding the next generation, we may have a chance to start over.
Timi Gustafson R.D. is a registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, blogger and author of the book “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun”®, which is available on her blog and at amazon.com. For more articles on nutrition, health and lifestyle, visit her blog, “Food and Health with Timi Gustafson R.D.” (www.timigustafson.com).