From infancy we learn to connect food with emotions. A baby associates the comforting smell and taste of milk with warmth, affection, soft caresses, gentle words and nurturing, cozy love. This multi-sensory emotional bond seals our fate for connecting food and emotions for a lifetime! As we grow, we look to our parents to feed and nourish us, we are given “sweet treats” if we do something well, accomplish a goal, pass a test. Food is given to comfort us if we are disappointed, let down, discouraged or upset.
Our boyfriends and girlfriends buy us our favorite chocolates and take us to our favorite restaurants, and our husbands and wives cook our favorite meals as gestures of love and affection. Being deprived of these things makes us feel like love has deserted us. So, it’s no wonder that it’s very difficult for us to give up the foods we love, even to prevent heart disease.
We can eat ourselves healthy, or we can eat ourselves sick—the good thing is we get to choose. While there are many people with serious eating disorders, most of us just need to use common sense, exercise some will power and love the fact that we can change our lives for the better.
We have to “unlearn” the food and love connection and develop new connections that are not centered around food. By helping ourselves, or our loved ones become healthier, we are showing tremendous love. There was a scene in the movie “It’s Complicated” where the character played by Meryl Streep, took the salt-shaker away from Alec Baldwin’s character. He was touched by her concern, commenting that his “new wife” doesn’t do that for him.
The problem with trying to stick to a “heart-healthy” diet is it really doesn’t seem that appetizing. If you cast a look at the top 25 Heart-Healthy Food recommendations on Web MD, they hardly get your pulse racing in anticipation—except for chocolate maybe. But if we are looking to develop a new mindset—trying to show love in a way that’s not connected with food—we need to get a bit more creative. Try a few of these tips if you fall back into the habit of “feeding” your emotions!
• Put Post-it notes on foods in the cupboard and fridge you should not eat that say “I love you for not taking this”
• Instead of going out to eat as a treat, go out to dance
• Feed your mind instead of your stomach—read, do a crossword puzzle, take a class
• Remove yourself from the temptation, go for a walk, get some exercise and enjoy being outside
• Hug often—the physical connection cannot be underestimated
• Feeling loved is vital in helping someone change—tell them you love them—tell yourself too!
• If you fall off the “wagon” just get back on again, it won’t leave without you
• Fill your life with friends, family, interests, travel, whatever your passion is, you will have less time to think about food and more time to think about the richness of your life
• If you do indulge, enjoy every single morsel, don’t waste time on feeling guilty, just love every pleasurable second. But, make sure you only do it once in a while
Open your heart, embrace change and you will be well on your way to a heart-healthy, satisfying and gratifying lifestyle!