How emotional state can impact food choices
Childhood Association with Sweets
Our experiences in childhood shape our adult’s personality and this also goes for our relationship with healthy and unhealthy food. Recently, I was in line at the petrol station with a lady just in front of me. She was busy picking up a few groceries and she had two children with her who were happily frolicking in the store aisles. She turned towards the confectionery shelves and announced loudly (to no one in particular) “I better pick up some chocolate for the kids to keep them entertained”.
This sentence resonated with me for several reasons; I found it interesting that this lady felt the need to declare her reasoning for picking up these chocolates and even more thought-provoking that the motive she highlighted for giving the children chocolate was to keep them amused.
It led me to think about childhood as a whole and how important the messages we receive about food are. This incident may have been a rare occurrence for these children, but I suspect it was not and I wonder if these young people will grow to associate sweet treats with fun, enjoyment and distraction.
My Experience with Sweets
I grew up in between two homes. In my mother’s household, I don’t remember much discussion around food. I ate at meal times and/or when hungry and there were very few sweets or fizzy drinks in the house. However, there were desserts on occasion and no food type was ever completely barred. At age seven I decided to become a vegetarian and that was accepted and welcomed.
At my Dad’s house however, food played a very different role. It was a source of love, comfort, and socialising. My sisters and I would often go for meals out with my Dad and the weekends were all about chilling out, having a break, and chowing down. Fry ups, take-a-ways and tubs of ice cream were regular end of the week treats. Although I didn’t develop an unhealthy relationship with food, I definitely associated ‘treating’ myself and feeling ‘cosy’ with a healthy (or not so healthy) dose of sweet, sugary and stodgy foodstuffs.
A Better Lifestyle
When I decided to give up dairy in 2017, I was worried about how I would live without it. So many of my favourite cakes and puddings were packed with milk and butter and I couldn’t even begin to imagine living without my beloved cheese!
Somehow, I did it and sure enough, after a few months, the cravings began to subside. Now, I don’t miss cheese at all! In the few weeks following my dairy departure, I would notice a craving for my favourite type of cheese, paneer, always emerged on a Thursday evening straight after I had finished teaching my yoga class.
I found it strange that I didn’t crave paneer at any other time and wondered why. I dug deeper and realized that I often ate chilli paneer on a Thursday. Its heady combo of fat, oil and flavour felt breathtakingly indulgent and warmed me up after my longest working day of the week. I quickly understood that my childhood pattern of seeking comfort in fatty food was still present. It wasn’t the taste of the paneer that I craved; it was the way it made me feel; comforted, supported, and cosy.
After I came to that recognition, it was quite easy to find things that had the same effect but didn’t involve cheese! Now, if I’m craving comfort I ‘ll give myself a foot rub, run a warm bath, or snuggle up with a good book which gives me the cosy, self-love vibes I adore.
Having said all of this, it’s not to say I don’t consume any fatty or sugary food. I still have a sweet tooth and I definitely enjoy a slice of vegan cake every now and then! It’s simply that I’ve become more aware of my emotional connection to food and now if I crave something strongly, I ask myself: what is it that I’m actually searching for? Sometimes, a ferocious need for cake is just that but at other times there’s more to it. It’s good to be conscious of our emotions when we’re craving a particular food so we can make mindful decisions in the search for a healthier lifestyle.
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