If we are being really honest with ourselves we have to admit that food often can play many different roles in our life. At times it is how we nourish ourselves, at others it’s how we soothe, comfort or reward ourselves after a long day. Still in other moments, it is how we celebrate achievements, big and small, in our every day lives. We just have to look at social media to see all the food based celebrations that happen: holidays, birthdays, job promotions, having a baby, getting married, it’s Friday/Saturday night. The list could go on. I believe it is important to understand the many different roles that food plays in our lives and determine which ones are healthy and which ones could use a little work.
While we often have an opinion on not using food to soothe (food doesn’t actually deal with the sadness or hurt that you are experiencing), we also want to be careful of how we use food to celebrate.
Take client X for example. She has been struggling with emotional eating for nearly 10 years now. She understands how she turns to food when she is sad and has been working diligently to not use food as her main form of self care. When thanksgiving arrived she felt proud of herself because she allowed herself to enjoy the festivities including the food without feeling like she had to binge just because the opportunity to do so presented itself. She recently got a promotion at work and also moved into her own home. I congratulated her and asked her how she celebrated. Her response: I bought myself all my favorite foods and binged. Initially I told myself I deserved to do this because these are big accomplishments but then I realized I felt awful afterwards.
So often we celebrate by engaging in food based behaviors that are harmful. I want to be clear that I have no issue with food being a part of a celebration, nor do I feel you should stop yourself from enjoying your favorite foods. Rather I think we need to pay attention at how we harm ourselves under the guise that we are being kind to ourselves.
Just as I told my client, if you are someone who often struggles in this way then I would encourage you to spend some time really exploring other ways for you to celebrate. Food can be a part of it but it shouldn’t be the only way. We want achievements to be acknowledged and celebrated – it is important to recognize your accomplishments- but let’s do so in a way that actually promotes your happiness and well being.