Do You Have a Healthy Relationship With Food?

relationship with food

As you know, animism is about living in relationship with everything. One thing that we westerners often don’t have a great relationship with is food. Here are some things to think about to guide you in this area.

Do You Grow, Forage for, or Hunt Your Own Food?

Where does your food come from? Do you participate in creating, acquiring, or preparing it? How much skin do you have in that game?

The closer you are to the process of food production, the more you know what it costs to feed yourself. It’s more than just dollars and cents. It takes time to grow plants. Plants and animals need care. Something has to die so that you can live. We all depend on each other for survival. When you grow your own food, gratitude for the sunshine, rain, and decomposers (for compost) flows effortlessly because you know that you’re all in this together.

When you hunt, trap, snare, or fish for food, you pay attention to the animal populations. If their numbers are down, you go hungry. So, it’s important that they have an abundant, clean habitat.

In my opinion, the closer you are to the raw food source, the more likely it is that you have an authentic relationship with it.

Where Do You Buy Your Food?

If you don’t create or procure any of your own food, where do you buy it? Does it come from boxes and bags in the freezer section, or does it look fresh plucked from the ground? The more that your food looks like it did when it was growing, crawling, swimming, or grazing, the closer your relationship to it.

Do You Prepare Your Own Food?

The more hands on your life is, the more personal and meaningful it is. It’s the difference between making a baby blanket and buying one. It’s the difference between cooking your own dinner and getting take out.

No judgment is implied here. It’s fantastic when someone else does the cooking and we get a break. And when we cook our own food, we know where it came from, whether it’s fresh and clean, and if it’s healthy.

When it’s cooked with love, I believe it’s also healthier. I have a friend who owns a restaurant. Everything he makes tastes better. I can’t say why other than he cooks with love. So maybe you want know your ingredients and cook with love.

Is Your Unconscious Getting in the Way of Your Food Choices?

Lots of us have unconscious drives around food that only make sense to us. If we have a big appetite, but feel shame when others seem to eat like birds, we may have problems with eating on the sly or binging. Or we may restrict food intake to fit in. If our parent showed us love with treats, we may have learned that eating sugar is a way to give self love or comfort. Did someone make fun of your physique? That could also cause guilt, shame, and behavioral challenges around food. There are so many things that can get in the way of conscious eating. Fortunately, there are ways to become more self aware.

Do You Have a Trauma History?

Humans need food to survive. Our bodies can tell us what we need and when we’ve had enough if we listen – as long as there is no trauma history. Trauma is a game changer. It creates a cascade effect that impacts the survivor on so many levels. It slows down the digestion so food doesn’t move through the system as fast. This can lead to constipation, feeling full, and not feeling hungry. The longer you go without eating, the harder it is to start eating normally again. Maybe you have a sensitive stomach or don’t ever get a sensation of feeling full.

After trauma, the gut also stops producing adequate melatonin (so we don’t sleep), serotonin (so our mood is dysregulated), as well as other hormones and neurotransmitters. This negatively impacts our energy level, focus, concentration, memory, mood, immune system, and distorts our hunger signals and attitudes around food! Who knew?

Do You Have a Lot of Rules Around Food?

Are there certain foods that you won’t eat? (This is a reasonable thing if you have allergies or medical reasons for the restrictions). Does the clock tell you when you can and can’t eat? If you overdo it, do you have to make up for it in the gym or by cutting back the next day? Rules are about control. When something needs to be tightly controlled, it may not be all that healthy.

Are You Obsessed With How You Look or the Number on the Scale?

Do you measure food portions, spend a lot of time in food prep, and researching recipes? Does food, measurements, weight, or how you look dominate your life? Would you skip out on an event (like a pool party or wedding) because you’re afraid that you won’t look good enough in the appropriate attire?

How’s Your Relationship With Your Body?

I keep saying “listen to your body,” but how’s your relationship with your body? Are you even in it? Can you feel it? Do you love it? If you are not embodied, how do you know what your body is saying? Having a healthy relationship with your food depends on having a healthy relationship with your body. You can’t fix that by being thin, pretty, having surgery, or eating more or less. That comes from self acceptance.

Not So Healthy? Here are Some Ideas to Change That

If you’re reading this and feeling a little uncomfortable, perhaps it’s time to change your relationship with food. Here are some tips to get started on creating a healthier attitude towards food. Feel free to share your ideas in the comments too.

  • Get your hands dirty. Get involved in cultivating, acquiring, harvesting, and preparing food. Do it with love and appreciation. You can’t know a thing that you don’t see clearly. Having a hands on relationship with food will remove a lot of distortions.
  • Don’t cook? Learn! There are many free cooking channels on Youtube. You don’t need to become a chef, but having a few functional skills and a couple signature dishes will increase your self esteem and improve your relationship with food – if you cook mindfully and with love.
  • Find out where your food is coming from. I live around a lot of farms that sell food at farmer’s markets. They offer tours (virtual now) so that people can see the living conditions of their animals and see what’s in season. It makes food personal.
  • Listen to your body. It will tell you a ton! Probably more than you ever thought possible. Maybe you don’t really want food, you want affection, mental stimulation, or to feel more comfortable with what’s going on. When you become aware of your real needs, you can meet them more effectively. And don’t feel guilty if your body says, “I want to enjoy this gelato with my friends!” Do it up.
  • Throw away the “good” and “bad” labels for food. Yes, some food is more healthy than others, but when we call things “bad,” that’s our cue to feel guilt and shame. Eating is normal! We all need to eat. Let’s not make it a bad thing.
  • Chill out on the size/weight shame. Love yourself at any size. Everybody isn’t born to be skinny. People come in all shapes and sizes. It’s okay.
  • If you have a trauma history, consider seeing a trauma therapist. I say a “trauma therapist” because counselors who are not trained in trauma may not be skilled enough to help you. It’s a complex issue that can’t be talked away or prayed away.
  • Do you need therapy for issues other than trauma? There is no shame in that. We all need support and to upgrade our skills. A good mentor, therapist, counselor, or friend can make all the difference in life.
  • Guidelines around food are good. Rules may be a bit overbearing if they are running your life. One day we will all leave this earth. Nobody is going to care about how well you did on your diet or how much you weighed. If you live well and love well, they will remember that.

When it comes down to it, how you do anything is how you do everything. If you approach food mindfully, you don’t need a lot of rules or experts to tell you what to do. Trust your own judgment. Engage with your food. Listen to what your body says about that engagement, and follow your gut. You’ll do just fine.