Our relationship with food is that of “I’m either a slave or a master” says Angela Karanja Psychologist and Parenting Teenagers Expert & Founder of Raising Remarkable Teenagers
Slave or a Master, which one do you think you are?
Let me put this into perspective.
Do you eat because you’re truly hungry or because it is a habit?
Do you eat because you’ve seen food?
Do you decide what you eat?
Do you decide when to eat?
Do you decide how often you eat?
Do you know the content of what you eat?
Do you decide how much you eat?
Most of us eat out of habit and as we all know the chains of habit can be too heavy to be broken. Therefore, we are mostly slaves and hardly masters in our relationship with food.
Let Me Explain
When you were born, you were introduced to food as a way of life and sustenance. So, it’s fair to say that during your formative years you had no choice of what you ate, when you ate and how much you ate. To be fair let’s just say you gained these eating habits through conditioning, subsequently your relationship with food became that of a slave by proxy.
During adolescent years (which start at about eight years) most kids begin to express their innate need for independence. They are beginning to understand the world around them; they begin to assert personal preference and push for their differences to be honoured. They begin to express when they want to eat, what they want to eat, how much they want to eat; – in essence they are stirring up to regain their position as a master of their own lives and in this case being the master in their relationship with food.
Unfortunately for most teenagers, this motive to be independent is mistaken for rebellion by the society including their own family and most often not supported says Angela Karanja. Most teenagers are then pulled back to settling for the same old habits of what, when, how much to eat hence the propagating of this slave relationship with food even into adulthood.
Let’s be honest, have you ever intentionally evaluated what you eat? For example, what is the nutritional value of the last meal you ate? (i.e) in terms of what carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals and protein composition was in it.
Why did you eat it? Were you really hungry or was it just because it was available, or it was the usual time you are used to eating? For example, how many people around the world eat at noon because it’s the “lunch time” not because they are hungry?
Have you ever asked yourself why you like what you like? Is it because you actually like it or it’s because your parents introduced that to you, and you are now conditioned to that taste?
How much do you eat? To your fill? Or to finish the plate because your parents said never leave anything on the plate?
Do you eat or not eat certain foods on certain days because the tradition is that this kind of food is only eaten at certain times? For example, my partner who grew up eating Sunday roast only on Sundays has difficulties eating that same meal on a Tuesday even though it’s basically food, this is the weight of conditioning.
As humans we create these traditions around food and then we lose ourselves to them and wind up becoming slaves to them.
You should have seen my partner the first time I said I was having a jacket potato with tuna and chilli con carne. He was cringing for me. He went red on his cheeks saying he was feeling embarrassed for me. WHY I asked “those just don’t go together”. I asked him “says who?” That’s what I wanted, that’s what I was having. The conversation moved to – “well when we were younger…..and then to “this chef says this….” My questions to him were ;- “have you tried it to be able to judge it that critically?”
My question to you is, when was the last time you critically assessed the nutrition and the benefits of what you were eating? Did you decide to eat it on the basis that it was adding value to you or not? Why do you eat pudding straight after mains? Do you need it? Is it nutritional or is it a habit?
I must admit even though I consider myself as an intentional and independently aware person in terms of my relationship with food, I still have a lot of slave tendencies when it comes to my relationship with food.
My palate still has some conditioned preferences. For example, I only eat peeled butternut squash and when my partner cooks, I won’t eat the skin even though I know its ok because there are extra nutrients on the skin. WHY? Because in my family we always peeled it. So, in this case I’m a slave.
Most of us have a slave relationship with food because of our family upbringing. Additionally, the food industry has propagated this slavery by making claims such as “eat often to keep your body fuelled” which has made us lose our mastery of food. The truth is, whilst our bodies need to keep fuelled, eating often is not what is optimum for our bodies. We have food stores aka fat stores in our bodies which is another source of fuel.
When you are a master, your choices are based on conscious choices which results in a healthier body and brain.
Yes, you choose more nutritional food, you choose how much you eat because you know overeating can lead to unhealthy weight gain.
You choose when you eat and how often because you know every time you eat insulin is activated and insulin instructs the body to store fat. When we are not eating insulin drops and signals your body to go use the stored fat as fuel. So, a healthy rhyme and balance on how we feast and fast is very important. Giving your body ample time to actually access the stored fat is just as important to manage our weight as part of our relationship with food.
My encouragement is that we become more of masters than slaves in that slave master spectrum of our relationship with food.
So, after everything we’ve discussed here, do you think your relationship with food is that of a master or a slave?
I think a more realistic question to ask is:- Are you more a master or a slave in that slave master spectrum relationship with food?
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