Have you ever stopped to think about what you expect from food? What do you want food to do for you?
Food can nourish our bodies, providing fuel and a cocktail of nutrients that our bodies use to function. Food finds a role in many social gatherings, and is an aside to a variety of events, such as sports and movies. Food provides stimulation to our senses.
We often have desires to eat. Sometimes this is fueled by physical hunger, and sometimes it comes from our emotions or senses. Check out some ways to identify which of the three types of hunger you’re experiencing in this graphic from Megrette Fletcher, M.Ed., RD, CDE, with The Center for Mindful Eating:
Any of these reasons is a perfectly fine reason to choose food, as long as you know which type of hunger you’re addressing. What you’re expecting from the food can change depending on the hunger type, and recognizing what you’re wanting from food is key in deciding whether it’s the best way to nurture your needs. We’re all going to choose food for emotional and sensory hunger at times, but recognizing whether it can meet what you truly need is critical
Here are some things that eating food is capable of providing for us:
- Nutrition for our bodies to keep them working well and structurally sound
- Pleasurable sensory experiences
Here are some things that eating food is NOT capable of providing for us:
- Sense of purpose
- Satisfying body movement
- Mental stimulation
- Stress relief
- Creative outlet
Practice recognizing whether you’re asking food for something it can’t be responsible for in your life. Anytime you feel drawn to eat, investigate why. Maybe you’re genuinely hungry. Maybe it’s a habit because you normally have a certain snack while watching a TV show. Maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed and are reaching for food to feel that you have control over something. Maybe you’re snacking because your body wants to move.
Once you know why you’re reaching for food, you can decide whether the food will meet what you’re needing, or whether you want to address your needs in a different way. If you’re stressed, maybe a walk or a phone call to a friend will better serve you. If you’re seeking a sense of purpose, journaling might be a better fit. By digging into what we are truly seeking from food, we can best choose how to use food and what roles it will have in our lives.