I want to share some of my thoughts on our attitudes to and relationships with food in the 21st Century. I’m going to question whether a large part of our eating behaviours have become “disorderly”. Please note though, by using the words ‘disorderly eating’ I’m not referring to Eating Disorders which are a mental illness, and I’m not talking about the clinical definition of ‘disordered eating’ which is considered a prelude to the development of a full blown eating disorder and is not a ‘lifestyle choice.’ Instead, the questions that interest me are: What is a normal relationship with food nowadays? Has a healthy relationship with food been hijacked?
“What are you talking about? We eat because we get hungry, right?”
I’m not completely convinced by that. Eating as a ritual is integral to our daily work and school routine. We eat because it’s time to eat not necessarily because our bodies are telling us to. Secondly, eating certain quantities or certain types of food we wouldn’t normally eat is linked to social occasions; for example we permit ourselves to overindulge and eat decadently because of a celebration. Then thirdly, there is eating for a reward; ‘I worked out at the gym and burned X number of Kcals today’ and therefore believe I have permission to ‘pig out.’ We use food to bribe ourselves and also freely bribe our children with it (more of my thoughts on that here). Lastly there is the darker side of not eating, skipping a meal or the opposite, overeating, because you feel bad or sad about something. Here food is manipulated and used as a comforting tool.
Food, Diets, Pills and Nutritional Supplements are Everywhere!
Food is everywhere; on TV shows, commercial breaks, billboards, leaflets, city streets are saturated with restaurants and places to buy food: We love food. We like to think about food, we like to make it and we like to discuss it at length. Is being so food focused a bad thing? What do you think?
Regardless of how we answer that question, however, is the undeniable fact that the human race is becoming larger than ever before. Our weight gain is having momumental health consequences for a large proportion of the population which impacts not only on the individual but also society at large. Food is making us sick.
Our preoccupation with food and eating occurs in an environment that is also obsessed with body image, both male and female. The diet industry is booming, non-food ‘shakes’ and dietary replacements that where the rage in the 80’s are still pretty popular today and exist alongside ‘magic’ pills and supplements that promise rapid and easy weight loss. My Facebook feed is full of cures that magically remove ‘belly fat’ (alone, it seems) in three weeks. And at the same time, there is a enormous industry that promotes large quantities of nutritional supplements (every day!) implicitly/explicitly implying that our normal diets leave us deficient in key nutrients. To little old me, this looks a tad ‘disorderly.’ Yet, in developed countries, for many people it is ‘normal’ eating in the 21st Century! In fact, if you aren’t concerned about your weight (just that last 5KG is so hard to shift!) or apprehensive to some extent about what you put in your mouth (that chocolate muffin this morning was a bit naughty!) you become the extra-ordinary!
Food, coupled with weight, image concerns and conflicting messages about nutritional needs must surely colour our eating habits with emotions; Pleasure, Guilt, Excitement, Fear, Triumph, Shame, Disdain, Love…and Hate?
It looks to me like our relationship with food is a lot more complex than simply a means to satisfy an appetite. And I wonder, has our relationship with food been hijacked?
If our relationship with food has been hijacked, the next question is of course, ‘whodunit?’ Are we doing it individually, all by ourselves, or is the collective – the media, big bucks industry – to blame?
These are just my initial thoughts on the topic. I’ve got lots more thinking to do but meanwhile I’d love to know your thoughts. Do you think our eating habits have become ‘disorderly’ in some shape or form? Has our relationship with food been hijacked or do you think the opposite is true?