Today I watched a big family pass around a baby at a birthday gathering. The infant, not yet walking and talking, was nonetheless the star of the party, connecting w/ each loved one over the variety of delicious food that was there. Each person excitedly offered her something to eat and her delight was contagious. Why wouldn’t she try all of the new tastes and experiences?
I was reminded then that eating disorders do not develop from enjoying the pleasures of new tastes, but are the result of an extremely complex set of genes and experiences in life. And over time, societal factors do play a large role: the beauty industry, the “war on obesity”, food insecurity, etc. But sharing food with loved ones and introducing new tastes is not the same as substituting eating for love. In fact, it’s the opposite. We can look to children to model a beautiful relationship with food. They are curious about new foods, they eat what they want, and for the most part, they eat when they are actually hungry for food. After all, they come with brand spanking new regulatory systems for all kinds of things.
If your worry and concern about eating or not eating is an attempt to fix other life issues, remember that quality help is more available now than ever. Rebooting a confused relationship with food can be the way back to rediscovering all kinds of feelings about what we want in life and when we want it.
Christine Loeb, LMFT, RD provides psychotherapy and nutrition counseling to individuals and families in Encino, California. She treats Eating Disorders, Grief, Anxiety, and Depression, and is a founding member of VFED. Find her at www.ChristineLoeb.com