Flip to page 64 of the May 2022 issue and you’ll find “Tangled Up in Food,” the article that inspired this month’s column. As I read — and reread — the words on those pages, I found myself relating in one way or another to each of the problem eating patterns:
✓ Speed-eating. (That often happens as I squeeze in meals between meetings. I also tend to eat quickly.)
✓ Night-eating syndrome. (Though this is the one I struggle with the least, it gets me on the days I’m not planful about my meals.)
✓ Stress-eating. (When I’m on deadline or feeling overwhelmed, I often find myself searching out food as a coping mechanism. Cheese-and-caramel popcorn, anyone?)
✓ Mindless eating. (On the road, at my desk, on the couch watching a movie — that popcorn I just mentioned somehow disappears.)
✓ Secret snacking. (This is the one that I really struggled with several years ago. In fact, as I read this section of the article, I was reminded of a blog post I wrote back in 2013 about my Super Secret Snacking Behavior, or SSSB, as I referred to it. Many an empty bag of chocolate chips or jelly beans ended up buried in the trash when I was alone.)
My intent in sharing this is not to shame myself or anyone else for engaging in these behaviors. Rather, it’s to remind us that we’re human and there are no perfect eating patterns. Just as we can return to our breath when we find our minds wandering during meditation, we can also practice more healthful eating habits and come back to them — again and again.
Slipping does not mean we have to give up altogether or that we’re a failure. In fact, it’s a lesson in discovery and growth around our connections with food and our biological need for it.
In a recent email, Marc David, MA, the founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating and a leading mindful-eating expert (who’s featured in the aforementioned article), addressed the question “Why can’t I control my appetite?” His response struck me:
“When it comes to your appetite, our job is not to control it. Our job is to learn how to best be in relationship with it. . . . Being in a relationship requires that we listen, we pay attention, we get to know the person or thing that we’re in relationship with. Being in a relationship is about exploration, it’s about ups and downs. A relationship has challenges, successes, and ultimately, relationships are asking us to grow.”
David then suggests adjusting the question to “How can I learn to be in the best possible relationship with appetite?” “When you ask the question this way, you take back your power,” he explains. “It means letting go of fighting a natural and necessary function of the human race and learning to slow down, relax with food, receive pleasure and satisfaction, be present with your meal, and celebrate the eating experience. . . . This is your opportunity to be in right relationship with the beautiful wisdom of your own biology.”
You’ll see examples of finding connection and pleasure in relationship with food throughout this issue: in “Tastemaker,” TV host and author Padma Lakshmi’s cover feature; in “How to Get Your Kids in the Kitchen“; and in “Back to the Roots”.
Wherever you are in your own relationship with food, give yourself some grace and try to notice the joy. And remember: All relationships need nurturing — including the one we have with the food that nurtures us.