FOOD CHAIN Focusing on food as a positive in our social, mental, emotional and physical lives helps remind us of the joys and benefits it can bring.
A peculiar thought struck me yesterday. It concerned two of the things that most of us seem obsessed about – food and our weight. What struck me is that upon the moment of our birth, in those seconds after we arrive from the comfort and safety of our mother’s womb, two things happen. Barring any complications, we immediately search for mum’s breast, intuitively knowing it as the point of sustenance. After a quick feed, we are immediately whipped atop a scale to determine our body weight. Those present comment upon that weight and deem it good or bad.
How interesting! Two of our first actions concern food and body weight. Our obsession with food is natural and easy to understand. Food is integral to our survival. It forms a central part of our culture, plays a supporting role in our relationships and even informs our sense of identity. Food is, indeed, the fabric of our social, cultural and individual lives.
What about the other obsession, that of our body weight? Is the priority given to this at birth somehow responsible for it assuming such a prominent position in our psyche? Was some association formed in our infantile brain between food and weight that would lead to many of us struggling to balance these warring factions in our lives? Perhaps not, but it’s a curious thought.
Whatever the reason for our obsession with weight, there is no doubt that it’s current prominence in our lives is due, in large part, to the availability of processed, obesogenic foods and our choice to indulge in them.
Obesity has become a pandemic, affecting nearly half the population of some First World countries, with many others catching up. ‘First World’ seems to apply only to an abundance of material wealth rather than common sense. The inversion of this pattern in developing countries is stark by comparison.
A changing relationship
The time is ripe to change the relationship between food and our bodyweight. By changing our approach to food, we can also change our relationship with our bodies. This will, in turn, inform a different conversation about our bodies. A conversation that does not revolve around weight but around feelings of energy, vitality and wellbeing.
The first step is to recognise the central role that food plays in our social lives. We must get back to the enjoyment of food, both for the pleasure of food itself and its ability to bring us together.
This can be achieved in several ways. Taking a cooking class, experimenting with new foods in the home or buying a new cookbook are simple steps to begin with.
Bringing a mindful approach to eating is a key strategy to unleash the power of food. Eating slowly, designing your own ritual around the preparation and enjoyment of food and eating with friends and family at a table while engaging in stimulating conversation – all of these things can help restore food’s rightful place in our social fabric.
A new paradigm
By focusing on the enjoyment and social pleasures of food, we will gain an awareness of the effect that the food we eat has on our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. This will empower us to make informed choices about what we choose to eat. Our choices will reflect our growing understanding of what brings health and vitality to our lives while eliminating those that take it away.
The result of this changed relationship with food is the end of the relationship between food and weight. Imagine a gastronomic world not dictated by fad dieting, over-medicated solutions to food-derived disorders and a desire to be a certain shape. This is a world defined by the values of optimal health, vitality and empowerment. As always, the power is in the choice – and the choice is yours.
Paul O’Brien is a certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise since 2007 and a qualified Life, Health & Nutrition Coach. He is co-owner of Republic of Fitness in Westport. He can be contacted on 086 1674515 or email@example.com.