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Eating Our Way To Happiness

Eating Our Way To Happiness

We all need to eat but what we eat and how much we eat varies enormously. Few of us only eat when we are hungry, and only what we need rather than what we want. We binge, diet, pig out, indulge, fast; we eat junk food, healthy food, only fruit, high protein, low fat, raw food, vegetarian, vegan, macrobiotic. We use food as a substitute for love, as a way to win love, to fulfill desire, as a means of punishment through deprivation, or as a reward. In every woman’s magazine there are articles on the ultimate diet, recipes for a lover’s meal, how to feed hungry teenagers, the contents of a celebrity’s refrigerator, and what foods will cure arthritis. In other words, food is an issue.

Perhaps this is not surprising. From the very beginning we are focused on food, crying when our stomachs are empty and being rewarded with warm milk, which is accompanied by either a breast or a bottle and, usually, the familiar soothing voice of mother. Our needs are extremely basic—we want milk, dry clothes, a warm place to sleep, lots of love, and a few friendly faces to look at. At this early stage there is little separation between food, mother and love—they all tend to come at the same time and they all do much the same thing, which is make us feel good.

As we grow older these needs do not change much, they just get bigger. But over time mother, food and love begin to separate: food does not always come from mother, mother does not always love, and food is used in place of love. So food remains an issue: mother cooks it and makes us feel guilty if we do not like it; we get sent to bed without food if we misbehave; or parents are absent and we are placated with food treats. Even worse is when we are in need of being held or loved and we get candy instead, simply reinforcing the belief that food and love are not only connected but also interchangeable.

For instance, Deb remembers: I was at boarding school from the age of eight. All of us would look forward each week to getting parcels sent from home: boxes of chocolate and candy. Such packages proved our parents loved us.

We use food in much the same way later in life by giving a box of chocolates as a sign of affection, such as on Valentine’s Day, or to assuage our guilt for not having visited an elderly relative sooner. Sweet food is a universal replacement for love, but where love is nurturing and makes us feel good, sweet food rots our teeth, makes us fat, and lowers our immunity.

Our eating habits and relationship to food are indicative of our relationship to ourselves and to what extent our needs for nourishment are being met, as explained in Deb’s award-winning book, Your Body Speaks Your Mind. Do you obtain nourishment through food or through love? If you feel emotionally uncared for or rejected, do you turn to food for comfort? And to what extent does your digestive system reflect this relationship?

Food Review

The easiest way to become aware of your relationship to food is to keep a diary of how you are feeling as well as what and when you are eating.

  • Do you only eat when you are hungry? Or do you eat when you think you are meant to, even if you are not hungry?
  • Does your food depend on how you are feeling? Do you eat the same food when you are happy as when you are sad?
  • Do you get cravings for certain foods at particularly emotional times or when you are around a certain person?
  • Does eating make you feel emotionally satisfied and fulfilled?
  • Do you deny yourself food or nourishment in the same way you deny yourself emotional nourishment?


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Read more: Blogs, Body Image, Caregiving, Diet & Nutrition, Ed and Deb, Family, Food, Health, Love, Mental Wellness, Self-Help, Spirit, , , , , , ,

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Ed and Deb Shapiro

You can learn more in our book, Be The Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World, forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman, with contributors Marianne Williamson, Jane Fonda, Ram Dass, Byron Katie and others. Our 3 meditation CD’s: Metta—Loving kindness and Forgiveness; Samadhi–Breath Awareness and Insight; and Yoga Nidra–Inner Conscious Relaxation, are available at:


+ add your own
12:49PM PST on Dec 17, 2012

Dla mnie jest to gorzka czekolada.

2:30PM PST on Dec 4, 2012

Life is too short to eat only what is good or health for you. Of course we learn to eat with our emotions, our parents teach us that at the dinner table. It's where we can be truthful about our feelings and be taught how to deal with different phases of our life. I attempt to eat for health most of the time but occasionally I eat for enjoyment.

12:30PM PST on Dec 4, 2012

Interesting, thanks

12:04PM PST on Dec 4, 2012

Dobre pytania, każdy powinien się nad nimi zastanowić i wyciągnąć dla siebie wnioski.

8:23AM PDT on Jul 31, 2012

Interesting, but food is a part of the natural way of things. We can be displaying any number of emotions while eating it. Food is there to be savoured and enjoyed be it a hot cup of freshly chopped basil tea and honey or something more substantial.

It can be instructive to journal about one's emotions while eating on occasion for self interest perhaps but to me a strawberry is just a strawberry, perhaps dipped in dark melted chocolate or food is just a slice of whole grain toast. Humans being social have shared experiences and delights over food for eons.

Yes sweet food rots our teeth or other foods can give gluten troubles but life is short and where are the fiddleheads? Many of us have already learned moderation and the occasional feast is not going to cause chaos in the alternative universe.

8:37AM PDT on Jun 10, 2012

May I?

1:59PM PDT on Jun 9, 2012

"Sexual chocolate Baby"
-Layne Staley (Alice In Cains)

12:26PM PDT on Jun 8, 2012

thanks for the article

5:06AM PDT on Jun 7, 2012

Thanks for the good info...

3:25AM PDT on Jun 7, 2012

I have considered most of these comments myself. Like eat when hungry only and the emotional eating thing. If I could discipline myself more I could be thinner thats for sure.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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