Our Strained Relationship with Food

Why is eating so hard?

Food Is Hard

Food is hard, man. And most of us have some strain with it — eating too much, too little, over-thinking it, under-thinking it, or just not knowing what we’re supposed to eat… food is hard.

This Article Is Not About Weight

Because we can have a strained relationship at any size…

  • Overweight individuals can have an unhealthy relationship with food.
  • Underweight individuals can have an unhealthy relationship with food.
  • Healthy weight individuals can have an unhealthy relationship with food.
  • And even health-nut gym-rats in perfect shape can have an unhealthy relationship with food.

In many cases, an unhealthy relationship with food comes down to a preoccupation with it, good or bad… though this isn’t always the case — individuals who “never think about food,” are “bored” by food, or rarely get hungry also have an unhealthy relationship with it (especially if they become underweight.)

So for this article, “weight” is of secondary, not primary, importance.

It’s About Our Psychological Relationships with Food

And because it‘s about the individual and our psychology…

Let’s Use the Same Terms as Interpersonal Attachment Styles:

  • Anxious attachment
  • Avoidant
  • Anxious-avoidant (or “fearful”)
  • Secure

Anxious-attached eaters: may experience a negative view of self (but relatively positive view of food), a sense of dependency, emotional highs and lows, clinginess, and fear of loss or separation from food.

Avoidant eaters: may experience a relatively positive view of self but negative view of food, considering themselves to be independent and separate from it and thinking things such as “I don’t need this” or “I can do without.”

Anxious-avoidant (“fearful”) eaters: may experience both of the above, both afraid of food and attached to it; seeking and avoiding it. They struggle with thoughts like “there’s something wrong with me” and “no one can love me,” and may abuse both themselves and food.

Secure eaters: have a positive view of themselves and food, are comfortable with enjoying it, trust it, and think things like, “this is here when I need it,” but don’t lean on it to solve their emotional problems.

Ultimately, “secure” is the goal.

Anxious: Food as “Good” — a Companion or Happiness

On an episode of the British show “Supersize vs Superskinny,” where an overweight and underweight individual compare diets, one woman shared,

“I love food a lot, because it makes me happy… when I open the fridge, it’s like your friend. And it’s like talking back to you ‘cause it’s like ‘I’m here! I want to be eaten!”

Everyone has felt this at least once.

My BMI is healthy, but I experience this too. I’ll wolf family-size bags of popcorn in 2 days and several ounces of cheese at a time (and I’m not sure if it’s “better” or “worse” that it’s fancy cheese without crackers.) I like cookies, and fries. And, yeah, I like beer.

Many of us have a “thing.” Some turn to it more than others, but we’ve all experienced that surge of “go-time!” joy from indulging in our favorite foods.