By Anita Doberman
If someone asked me, “What is your most complex relationship?” I would confidently answer — the one with food.
Truthfully, eating is complicated. To varying degrees, most of us have some sort of hang-ups when it comes to food. It can become an obsession, a way to soothe our unmet needs, take out anger and frustration, lull our senses and regulate our emotional states.
In fact, complex doesn’t even come close to describing our relationship with food. New diets are constantly being pushed into a very lucrative market, one based on our inability to normalize this relationship, and yet we continue to struggle.
I am the last person who could ever say that finding a solution is simple. I dealt with an eating disorder for years, and even today, trying to regulate my eating is tough.
I have observed that I often feel hungry or am tempted to splurge when I am more vulnerable. For someone like me, who is always trying to be in control of the house, the kids and practical issues with a husband gone and family far away, vulnerability is a no-no.
I am aware that I am not the only one dealing with this issue. It seems to affect everyone across age groups and even countries.
For example, my mom and my aunt came to visit me from Italy for about a week and they wanted to eat lots of unhealthy food. Splurging on vacation is natural. Who wants to constantly watch what they eat when they are having a little fun?
But what struck me was how or when we ate the food. Granted, my aunt’s obsession with biscuits, French fries and hamburgers and the fact that she craved them all day long didn’t help. But I realized that we were eating lots of food when we were home talking about their impending departure or the fact that I live so far away.
It was easier to stuff our mouths than to look at our feelings.
Everyone does this sometimes. Military spouses, new moms, and many people who have a difficult time or are particularly stressed and without support are susceptible to using food as a way to soothe their worries.
I don’t think the solution lies in a “should or must do this” mentality. At least it has never worked for me. Diets, exercise and healthy habits work if they are the outward expression of our internal change, our effort to consciously eat.
Taking a deep breath and just asking myself if I am really hungry for the bread or the biscuits I am thinking about helps. Sometimes all it takes is just a few seconds and I find that I can thoroughly enjoy the food I choose for what it is, and separate it from my emotions. I just have to take the time to be aware of what I am doing and why I am doing it.
As always, it’s a work in progress. But it’s worth the effort when it’s about our health and well-being.
Anita Doberman is a freelance writer, mother of five and wife of an Air Force pilot stationed at Hurlburt AFB in Florida.