Saturday, May 1, 2010

Food and Emotions

While cleaning out my grandma's house this weekend I was reminiscing with my mom about how Grandma always felt the need to feed us.  She would serve us a delicious and incredibly filling meal (not to mention fattening), then insist we eat dessert.  I've discovered a lot of people have received a similar treatment from their grandmothers.

My mom explained to me that people who lived during the depression when food was scarce will often give food as a sign of love.  The depression hit my grandparents' families very hard and it's wonderful that my grandma would want to give me something she didn't always have.

Three generations later, I'm still trying to separate love from food.  It's not easy.  Every time I'm feeling insecure, I try to fill that hole with cookie dough ice cream or a triple cheeseburger.  When my grandma died, someone brought over a pan of tater-tot hot dish.  I must have eaten half the pan myself.  I've learned to associate food with love and when I'm most in need of love from those around me, I instead turn to food.  Even a small thing like a stressful day at work can send me running for the potato chips.

Don't get me wrong.  It's okay to enjoy the food I'm eating and even have something that's not very good for me every now and then.  I'm allowed to have happy feelings when I eat.  The hard part is not eating every time I want happy feelings.

I think the answer lies in the idea that there are so many other things I can fill my life with besides food.  I can find new adventures that may or may not be exercise related.  I can spend more time with my friends and family.  I have my blog.  And I've got an incredible, supportive wife who cares about me and my journey.  Whenever I have a heavy heart, I need to turn in one of these directions rather than the direction of the kitchen.

I'm filling my life instead of my stomach.


  1. My parents would take my brother and I to Swensen's when we got good grades on our report cards.

    Swensen's had giant ice cream sundaes covered with massive amounts whipped cream, hot fudge, caramel, chocolate covered maraschino cherries, chocolate covered cookie wafers.

    That's love for you. And I, too, am still kicking the "food is love" habit.

  2. As a mom of seven this is a tough one for me. I am always baking, always fixing large home cooked meals (I love women like your Grandmother, regrettably there aren't many to carry on the tradition anymore) for my family.

    I think women for all the time mothering has been around have done this, with the exception of the past couple of decades where women have largely fallen away from traditional roles and nurturing styles... oddly enough there is more obesity, and childhood obesity now than ever in our grandparents day.

    Maybe the connection lies not just in the food and comfort or reward in it, but in the seeking of the feeling of nurturing that has been slightly devoid in our culture as of late.

    This topic is duel edged for me. I am obese, no one else in my family is. Not my family as in my hubby and children, nor my first family being my parents or siblings. I often wonder what clicked in my brain to over eat, and cant even begin to guess why no one else did.

    Lets face it, food from the time of infancy and being at our mothers breast is a comfort. Its one of our very first relationships and one we continue through out our entire lives. Just when do the wires get crossed? I don't know...

    My relationship with food has been a toxic one and the evidence of it I lug around in the form of excess pounds. I guess like any relationship we have to take inventory once in a while to keep it on track, to keep it healthy, to keep it working for us and not against us.

    Sorry for such a long comment... very interesting topic. Raises a lot of questions, not just on the obesity front, but on the emotional issues that may under lie it.

  3. I still turn to food when I am most stressed. It's a hard thing to turn off.

  4. This is a good post. Just this week, I have done something that I thought I could never do. I was actually able to fast for a day. What that means is that I have the satisfaction aspect of food nailed.

    I can turn it off now, if I want. If I can do it, so can you. You need to think differently. Think how you want to be with food and be it. Don't think about what you don't want. Nothing will change if you think about why you are the way you are.

    Sage, no?

  5. I vividly remember being admonished as a very young boy for not cleaning my plate at my grandparent's house.

    I've been on the clean plate club ever since. Even when I'm full. Even when I shouldn't clean OTHER people's plates. Something about starving children in China. It seems like a monologue from A Prairie Home Companion but is true.

  6. I have an honorary Greek grandmother who will tell me to "Eat! Eat! You are so skinny, you need to eat!" This is always followed by questions about "Why you no have a boyfriend?"
    They just want us to be happy, to be loved, to be fulfilled.
    Often, I just end up filled.

  7. Oh man, I also struggle with this. I wonder how many people in our position have this same issue?

    But you are so right. And your last line definitely hit the nail on the head: "I'm filling my life instead of my stomach."