It’s Time for a New Relationship With Food

15 Jun

I found this article quite thought provoking…


“Have you ever stopped to consider what relationship you have with food?

We don’t often think we even have a relationship with food, and yet we do — and it’s pretty intimate.

Think about this: if you’re like me, you spend as much or more time with food than you do with many of the loved ones in your life — several hours a day or more.

And consider this: technically, food is just fuel for living. That’s all — nothing else.

And yet … it has become so much more to most of us:

we use food for pleasure
we use it for comfort
we turn to food when we’re sad, depressed, hurt
we use food to socialize
we use it as a reward
we do it when we’re bored
food can also be a chore
we use food as gifts
we turn to food when we’re lonely
food can be associated with sex
food is equated to health
sometimes, food becomes an obsession
it definitely can be an addiction
food can make us hate ourselves
food is the center of many billion-dollar industries
In fact, the huge food-related industries are at the center of much of our relationship with food: restaurants, fast-food chains, convenience foods, agribusinesses, distributors, grocery chains, snack foods, bakeries, coffee shops, dessert chains, health food, diet foods, supplements, bodybuilding food, and many others. They spend billions upon billions every year trying to get us to eat more and more food — their food in particular — and the horrifying thing is that all this advertising really, really works.

We have been convinced that the answer to almost any problem is food. You truly love someone? Buy them chocolates, or take them to a restaurant, or bake them cookies. Want to lose weight? Eat diet food. Want to get fit? Take our supplements, eat our meat, drink our milk. Want to be healthy? Eat our healthy products. Want to reward yourself? There are too many options to name here. Having a bad day? We’ve got the food for you. Don’t have time? Our food will save time. Want to save money? Buy super size and “save”.

Food is the answer to everything, apparently.

And yet, we forget that food is just fuel. We need to eat a certain amount to live and maintain our weight. If we eat more than that, we will store some of that fuel as fat (or build muscle if we’re exercising). And how do we lose weight? By eating, apparently — eat diet food, drink diet shakes, eat Zone bars, eat vegetarian products, eat meat and other protein sources, eat low-fat products, eat our cereal, drink our diet soda.

But what if we … just ate less?

Despite what the food industries have convinced us, we don’t need to eat as much as we do to survive. Sure, maybe eating that much is fun, and pleasurable, and will stave off boredom, and is fun to do with friends and family, and so on. But we don’t need to eat that much. Actually, we need to eat less.

The problem isn’t that it’s so difficult to eat less. The problem is that we have a complicated relationship with food that started when we were toddlers and has become more and more complicated through the years, through endless amounts of advertising, of eating when we’re sad and lonely and happy and bored and at parties and going out and on dates and watching TV and dieting and so on.

Our complicated relationship with food makes it hard to cut back on how much we eat.

So let’s start building a new relationship with food:

Start recognizing exactly why we eat — is it just for sustenance or is our hunger often triggered by other things (boredom, socializing, pleasure, etc.)?
Start realizing the effects that advertising and the food industries have on how we think about food and how we eat.
Stop eating when we’re bored, out of habit, as a reward, for pleasure, for comfort, etc.
Only eat what and how much we need.
Find other ways to entertain ourselves, comfort ourselves, find pleasure, etc.
Find other ways to socialize than eating large amounts of food.
Stop obsessing so much about food.
End our addiction with certain foods — sugar, for example, or starches. We can still eat them, but we don’t need to eat them as much.
Think about it: how much simpler would life be if you could end this complicated relationship with food? Some changes that might happen:

You’d spend less time thinking about food.
You’d spend less time preparing food.
You’d spend less money on food.
You’d eat less.
You’d get healthier.

In the end, let’s teach ourselves some simple things: food is just fuel. Most of us need to eat less. Food isn’t love or entertainment or anything else like that. It’s just fuel.”

from Zen Habits by Leo Babauta.


4 Responses to “It’s Time for a New Relationship With Food”

  1. Sally June 15, 2009 at 15:47 #

    It made me think, too, but I think I thought something completely different! I commented at Zen Habits, but it occurs to me that if food is just for fuel, then sex is just for procreation. It’s the same kind of mentality and it may work for some people. However, people who think we need a new relationship with food (or sex) generally have a problem with their relationship with food (or sex — or their partners). Neither food nor sex is the real problem.

    I don’t think we need a new relationship with food; I think we need to go back to an old one that was driven from the home, not Madison Avenue and “Big Food.” It’s worked for centuries and still works very well in many areas of the world.

    As I said there, where there’s a strong, home-based food culture, many of these problems with food don’t seem to exist or exist to a much lesser degree. The fewer “experts” there are to tell people how and what to eat, the better they seem to eat. When Big Food isn’t telling us to eat a fourth meal or that we need a break today, there’s an entirely different relationship with food. Food isn’t healthy or “un”; it’s food. It’s not demonized. Yes, it’s to sustain and nourish, but it’s also for pleasure, socialization and celebration.

    • lizpitt June 15, 2009 at 16:22 #

      That’s so true actually… I think the issue is that we spend all our time at work and running around that there is very little time to eat healthy nutritious food. I am trying to get hold of some good books on healthy food, so I can learn exactly how to eat healthily even when there’s so little time. My main issue, and I think most people have that problem, is that we spend so much time in an office at a desk, so junk food is the easiest and quickest option.

  2. Sally June 16, 2009 at 00:51 #

    Hah! One of my other pet peeves is this emphasis we have on “healthy eating.” I don’t think women in other cultures give a thought to whether or not what they’re cooking is healthy. If you cook fresh food, it’s healthy. It doesn’t even need to be a “balanced” meal, because it will all balance over the course of a few days or a week. You just need to keep it simple.

    I received this in an email today from I’m neither affiliated with them nor advocating their services:

    ” The other night I was watching TV and a commercial caught my eye. I’ve seen it a hundred times before but this time it made me think. It was actually a commercial for CAT FOOD of all things. The name of the product is Fancy Feast. It’s promoted as cat food to spoil your cat with. They have some fluffy, fancy cat come out and eat this almost tasty looking (notice the word ALMOST LOL!) cat food out of a crystal dish. The cat is delicate and dainty eating this stuff.

    “Okay, are you ready for the big segue way? I think that’s how a lot of approach this thing called meal planning. We think all our meals need to be “fancy feasts”. We believe we have to slave over cookbooks, scour the Internet for recipes, clip coupons ad nauseum, plan the afternoon at 12 different grocery stores, kill ourselves cooking up extravagant recipes with a multitude of ingredients, setting the table with every imaginable utensil just to get food in the house and meals on the table.

    “Honestly, if that isn’t perfectionism to the nth degree, I don’t know what is! We need to SIMPLIFY this whole thing, ladies!…”

    I aim for 70% (or more) fresh food and 30% (or less) store bought — just the opposite of Sandra Lee’s Semi-Homemade philosophy. It doesn’t need to be time consuming, but I will admit that a slow cooker and/or a pressure cooker are invaluable in getting meals on the table rather quickly. Advance planning and maybe some advance prep help, too.

    We don’t need fancy feasts on a daily basis. All we need is simple, wholesome food.

    • Lizanne June 16, 2009 at 08:37 #

      You seem to have alot of ideas on the topic, have you got a blog or website we can look at? I agree with simple healthy food…

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