Do you wear food as a mask?

While replying to the amazing Jess Weiner (a great body image and self-esteem advocate) on the first post in the holiday series on how to recognize healthy eating advice, I had a thought about food and its deeper role.

Jess wrote:

I think the choices we make around the holidays are so totally loaded with other emotional layers that sometimes it’s just not about the food — and advice that skims the surface of the deeper issues for women – does a disservice – not only in perpetuating stereotypes for women and food but also for cutting us off from some of the more complex conversations that need to take place so we can finally unload those layers once and for all!

Here’s how I responded:

It’s interesting: Just like sometimes we use food to blunt and push down our emotions, we can do the same around the dinner table with food talk.

Instead of having the complex conversations we need to have, we talk about calories, others’ weight and how we have to work out ASAP. Food becomes a mask almost. We don’t talk about being upset with a family member, or being stressed out, or hating our bodies. Not that we should be all doom and gloom around the table. But it seems easier to talk about food and calories than what’s truly going on inside.

What do you hide with food talk? Talk of how fat you are, how much you’ve gained, how many calories are in the dessert, how so and so has lost tons of weight, how you’ll have to chart across the country just to work off the holiday meal, may be masking other things.

Perhaps you’re really saying I’m anxious today. My self-esteem is dwindling. I’m angry with you but instead of expressing that (it’s the holidays after all), I’ll eat this cheesecake and stuff my rage. I feel lost, especially with the New Year just days away. I’ve always been jealous of your body. You’re wasting away. I miss your friendship. I hate our distance. I wish we could get along.

Sometimes food is just food. Sometimes we just want to enjoy our meal, savor a piece of pumpkin pie, have some egg nog. And I’m all for that.

But other times food is a symbol of the deeper layers that we don’t want to reveal or might not even realize are there. So when you’re eating at your holiday celebration, consider if your food choices and food talk may hide emotional layers. Consider if you’re stuffing your emotions with food.

What complex conversations are you not having with others or yourself? What is food hiding for you? Do you let food do all the talking? What’s it saying?

This isn’t to put a damper on the holidays, but just some food for thought (sorry, couldn’t resist). This way, you’re truly savoring your meal instead of stuffing it.

Some helpful resources

Dara Chadwick of You’d Be So Pretty If…(a fave!) has tips on making a “food truce” with Mom

About.com on dealing with difficult people

The other posts in the Holiday Series

How to Tell if Holiday Advice is Truly Healthy

Eating This Holiday (and Beyond) with More Enjoyment and Less Guilt

Getting Through the Holidays When You Have an ED

 


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Trackbacks

Dr. John Grohol (December 23, 2009)

From Psych Central's website:
A Tip for Tending to Your Body | Weightless (January 11, 2010)

From Psych Central's website:
Do Your Friends Dictate Your Body Image? (And 8 Tips To Help) | Weightless (January 22, 2010)






    Last reviewed: 23 Dec 2009

APA Reference
Tartakovsky, M. (2009). This Holiday, What's Your Food Hiding?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 23, 2014, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/weightless/2009/12/this-holiday-whats-iyour-food-hiding/

 

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