Often what we eat is about more than providing fuel for our bodies, but problems arise if we find ourselves eating to deal with emotions. Many of these issues stem from childhood and can affect our weight loss. Here, we look at the link between our eating habits and memory.
Where it all begins
Our relationship with food begins from birth. As psychotherapist Mandy Cassidy explains: ‘Eating is essential for survival. Ever since we were at our mother’s breast, we’ve needed food for sustenance and to keep us alive. But as we grow older, what we eat is often about much more than staying alive. And this is OK – and perfectly natural.
‘However, if food becomes a crutch – either to fill a void or deal with complex emotions, that’s when problems occur’.
Power of nostalgia
Our memories can be a powerful thing – a yearning for the good old days when our lives were simpler. Indeed, businesses and advertisers have known for years that nostalgia sells and that the products we had in our youth will influence our buying habits throughout our lifetimes. And there’s nothing wrong with that – it’s part of who we are and makes us feel good.
But when it comes to food, the powerful link between what we ate and how we ate as children, and our eating behaviours as adults can have a destructive effect – especially if we’re prone to overeating. Instead of happiness, it can lead to a cycle of misery.
So, next time you’re feeling low, bored, depressed or fed up, before you reach for the fridge, pause and think ‘What am I really hungry for?’ This is the first step to achieving a healthier relationship with food.
Dealing with it
Here are some tips to help you break the cycle between your past and present relationship with food…
Turn it off
Turn off the Parent voice and the unhelpful messages. Think about what you really want. Don’t just react to your environment.
Find other ways
If you’re nostalgic for the past, try other ways to recreate the positive feeling of childhood that don’t involve food – such as look at an old family album or wrap yourself in a cosy blanket.
Avoid using words like ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘naughty’, ‘treat’ and ‘cheat’ – these can be unhelpful and don’t empower you to deal with the problem.
Likewise, get out of the habit of throwing caution to the wind and the mentality of ‘I’ve had one chocolate, I’ve already given in, I may as well eat half the box’.
If you’re a parent…
- Help your children to listen to their bodies; when they’re hungry and when they’ve had enough. Don’t force them to finish all the food on their plates or bribe them with pudding.
- Avoid mealtimes becoming a battle of wills or a backdrop to family tensions.
- Resist the temptation to reward or distract with food. Spend a moment listening to your child, acknowledge how they are feeling and help them deal with their emotions.