What and how you eat
    The Food Pyramid
    Counting calories: a key to diet literacy
    Your activity level
    The best form of exercise
    Chart your weight
    Sustainable agriculture
    Medical condition
    On hunger
    On eating out
    On cooking
    On addiction
    Food as love
    Spiritual Vegetarianism
    On temptation and resolve
    Six months report
    Dieting as meditation
 Grapevine Revisited
 Christmas Letter

This website is now published on my mobileme account. Any opinions expressed, however, are totally my responsibility.

The original website was published through the courtesy of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Jim Andris, Sept. 17, 2003.

Food as love

Can we talk? I'd like to take some very precious and even borderline sacred food practices and speak honestly about them. Let's face it, for a lot of folks, food is love, or symbolizes love or is a substitute for love. Your mom isn't just offering you apple pie, she's saying that she cares about you, and that you should put on a few pounds. Your spouse just spent two hours preparing this fabulous meal. It isn't just fuel for your body, it's his or her sacrifice for you. You won't lightly pick at your food, or say, oh I had too much at lunch so I just want a taste. For some companions, sharing food is part of the ritual of love for them. I know, I live with such a person. Lonely people often take care of themselves by using food as comfort and companionship. And, not to get too psychoanalytical or base, there is such a thing as oral gratification. If we're not getting enough kisses from our sweeties, we may be tempted to get them from Hershey's instead.

Food pushing and what to do about it

If you live with a person or have a close friend or relative that consistently insists that you eat food that you would be better off not to have, you're dealing with what in the vernacular is called "a food pusher." Here are some of the reasons why people push food. I deliberately started with "positive spin" reasons, but these reasons may in fact be related in real life in many people.

Dealing with your average healthy person

  1. Somebody they loved pushed food on them, and that's how they got started. They modeled after a sigificant food pusher in their life, and now they want to show their love to people they care about or need in their life by using the same approach.
  2. They excel at food preparation, or are proud of their food preparation ability, and this is a way that they can validate themselves, seeing other people enjoy food that they have prepared.
  3. They themselves love to eat, and want someone to share the experience with them.
  4. They believe that their sex role or their role in the family requires the preparation, supervision and distribution of food to others.

Let's deal with these four reasons first, because we can probably deal with these folks by being loving, caring, reassuring, and firm in our decision to eat only what we want to. Tell them that you appreciate their offer, and that you know it looks and is delicious. Another tack I use with my mom is to reminisce with her about the wonderful feasts we've had in the past, and how many of her recipies I still use to this day. I tell her how much I appreciate how she was there always to fix us good, wholesome food. And then I tell her firmly that my doctor and I agree that I need to loose weight. I validate her without overeating. Also, I know that it is her grandmama that she modeled after, and we talk all the time about Eva. And, I can have carrot sticks or an apple while she is eating, so we are sharing the experience.

Not rescuing people from their own foibles

  1. It's holiday time, feast time, and everyone is supposed to feast, so here it is.
  2. They make big recipes and also have message not to "waste food" and so must see the excessive amounts of food consumed.
  3. It's kind of a relief to see other people eating more than they should, because then one doesn't have to feel guilty about overeating. (See.)

Let's face it, there is really something obscene about all the gorging and food pushing that goes on from the fourth Thursday in November until the New Year. We have to get a grip on ourselves and start offering sane food alternatives during these times. No doubt about it, though, Christmas or other holidays with the family will severely test our food control prowess. I have yet to go through a holiday without going off my diet. Maybe this year.

However, I DID go on an 8 day luxury Carribbean Cruise and did not gain weight. I'll tell you how I did that. There was so much variety that I could have literally anything I wanted. So I did. I just didn't eat more than 1700 calories a day. How did I do THAT? Well, I'm way beyond counting calories, but I simply knew what size plate I could have at every meal. I put imaginary boundaries and ceilings on my plate, and then I filled it up to there. But, with EXACTLY what I wanted.

Dealing with people with issues

  1. The person carries a self-image of being an overweight or obese person for deep and complex psychological reasons. Food pushing validates this self-image.
  2. (Related to 8) The person is actually avoiding being slim and/or healthy because they believe they would not be able to cope with or are unworthy of embodying such an image.
  3. And finally, because of some of the above reasons, and others, they have tended to surround themselves with food pushers, and now they are enmeshed in a social web that is based on the over-consumption of food.

Now here is where the rubber hits the road. In some sense, this is really a life or death matter for you. I can't state this too strongly. Let's face it, if you have consistently had trouble loosing weight or keeping it off, you yourself probably have issues around food. Perhaps exactly these issues identified in points 8-10, or similarly related issues.

The situation isn't much different from the one an alcoholic faces once he hits bottom and sees that he must change his life or die. If you are surrounded by unrepentant food pushers, you are probably not going to loose or even maintain weight. Now, I'm not talking about abandoning your beloved momma. There are a few close family members whom we will simply have to learn to deal with. But it is very likely that as you loose weight your friends will change. Conversly, hanging out with in-shape, trim people will probably change you.

We live in a society of chronic overeating here in the U.S.A. so we all are more or less "enmeshed in a social web that is based on the over-consumption of food." In this case, you want to loose weight, so we must reverse the old saw: "If you can't join 'em, fight 'em." But, don't try to do it yourself. Join up with a group or get some allies in the fight. That's what these diet groups are all about. And I say, more power to 'em. Atkins Diet, Richard Simmons, Weight Watchers, they're all going to help some people. My brother lost 89 pounds on the Atkins Diet. He really needed to loose the weight. Am I going to try to convince him that his problem is really gluttony and modeling after my father? No way. I'm glad he lost the weight. May he keep it off.

So find your niche and start to work.