Whenever we want to change any sort of behavior for the better, the first step is to acknowledge and understand why those habits initially formed. When I first began to combat my eating disorder, I had to learn all about the different reasons for why I ate, and how it affected my relationship with food. I’ve compiled a list of all the different reasons in life why we, as humans, eat. I have divided it into three major categories:
- Food for the Body (Physical)
- Food for the Self (Emotional)
- Food for Others (Social)
Let’s break these down a little further.
Note: Some of these reasons may overlap at times- life is not black and white.
Food for the Body (Physical)
The first one is the most obvious: we must eat in order to survive. There are people who state that this is the primary function of food, and they are technically not wrong. What they fail to acknowledge is that human are complex creatures, and we have adapted to incorporate our emotions and values into the way we use food.
From bulking up for a sports team by eating proteins, to trimming down by cutting down carbs, performance plays a part in our diets. By learning about which foods gives us st optimal results, we are able to accomplish those weight goals.
For the Self (Emotional)
There have been so many moments in my life where food was my main support system. I ran to food for comfort as I ran to my favorite stuffed rabbit as a child; I would squeeze it until it suffocated me. For what it’s worth, I am grateful for the temporary tranquility food brought me throughout the years.
Just as we eat when we are overly emotional, sometimes we also eat when we are underwhelmed. Watching TV while mindlessly eating, I feel, is another form of boredom (although perhaps more habitual than anything else). When you mindlessly eat,you become so fixated on what you’re watching that your brain isn’t registering the proper amount of food you have actually consumed.
Food for Others (Social)
Whoever tried to brush off the concept of peer pressure needs to reevaluate their thought process. We monitor the vast majority of our behavior and words for other people. As I’ve stated in my previous article, An ode to my Eating Disorder: How I Learned to Love Myself Despite my Eating Disorder, everything in our culture (and others) revolves around food.
Food is often times seen as a form of social lubricant.
Want to catch up with a friend? Coffee.
First date? Dinner and drinks.
Work celebration? Some type of sweets (typically donuts or brownies).
The work example is especially tough. Not only can you not control what your co-workers bring in, but you also want to be accepted by your peers (sound familiar? I.e. high school). Lastly, they’re no stranger to coersion, (come on, you can have one!).
I think the trickiest scenario is any sort of family offer. Whenever I would go over my yiayia’s (Greek for grandma) apartment, she would always cook for us. Her cooking could have satisfied the gods, yet she could have easily guilted them just the same. It was considered immensely rude for you to deny her love-infused meals, (be sure to look out for one of my upcoming articles on how different generations view food).
A lot of eating revolves around cultural practices, religious or otherwise. In Greek culture, we celebrate Greek Easter which concludes with an enormous dinner. We have both magiritsa and avgolemono soup, and an abundance of roasted lamb. We would even play this delightful egg cracking game where the object was to break both the top and bottom of your opponent’s pink-dyed hard boiled egg.
American customs are filled with commercialized products and festivities: Halloween is for candy; Thanksgiving is when it is socially acceptable to gorge; Christmas has peppermints, eggnog, and Christmas cookies (Hanukkah has chocolate golden coins); Valentine’s Day is for trading heart-shaped boxes of chocolates with your significant other; Easter is for chocolate bunnies and peeps; July 4th is for beer and BBQs. There is always a built in excuse to eat for each holiday.
In American culture, eating seems to be its own Olympic sport. We gush over the amount that some people can physically eat. We love any sort of contest, and food is no exception. The media glamorizes this fetish we have. Man Vs. Food is a perfect example: host Adam Richman travels all over the country to visit the most delicious eateries and take on their massive food challenges. As he consumes calories, we exude excitement. We are no longer in awe over how much a single human being is able to intake. Instead, we embrace the challenge, and cheer on its participants. While other countries view it as gluttonous, Americans view it as entertainment.
A tad redundant, but I suppose this brings me to my last point: eating can be a lot of fun! Certain chefs push the boundaries with cuisine that defy the definition of food itself. They will take a simple substance, alter the molecules, amd create completely different textures and/or flavors.
The pearls gave a fun texture to the milkshake- I slurped them up with a purple bubble tea style straw. I loved dipping my graham cracker into the sweet beverage. The finishing touch was the presentation- complete with an old-fashioned malt cup. It was fun, imaginative, and conceptual. A+, Silver Diner, A+.
It is clear to see that food is a multi-faceted vessel in our society. We use it to express a plethora of messages and emotions. We use it to punish ourselves, yet love others. Whether a joyous celebration, or a rapturous rivalry, food is there to complement any occasion. The key is to be mindful of each moment- and with that, each bite.
I love to hear back from my readers! Open up the dialogue even further by commenting below a memory in which one of these categories applied to you.