Our Relationship with Food...Where Did We Go Wrong?

Ross and Rachel.jpg

Think of your favorite all-time television couples. Ross and Rachel. Carrie Bradshaw and Big. Angela and Jordan Catalano. Olivia Pope and Fitz. David and Maddie from Moonlighting. Felicity and Ben.

I could go on.  But, instead, I am going to ask what is the one thing they all had in common? What is the one thread that unites all of our most beloved tv romances?

Dysfunction.

Ross and Rachel broke up and made up virtually every season. Carrie was always chasing the elusive Big. Angela was obsessed with Jordan. Olivia and Fitz’s relationship was strictly forbidden. David and Maddie are most known for their epic arguments. And Felicity and Ben had that little thorn in their side named Noel. 

Now you may be thinking, “what do these couples have to do with our relationship to food, Kylie?” Another great question. All of these couples show what can go wrong in a relationship. A few blogs ago, I encouraged all of you to think of your relationship with food like you would think of any other relationship. We nurture our marriages by making sure to go on regular dates. We make sure to call our parents and check in. We take care of our children with vigilance and unconditional love. We know that, in order to have healthy relationships, we need to put in the work. And I think the television couples above provide great metaphors for how our relationships with food can go really wrong. Lemme break down six dysfunctional food relationships as represented by tv couples. Because, ya know, tv is the best representation of real life.

The Ross and Rachel - Also, known as the yo-yo diet relationship. This is one of the most common relationships I see. It is signified by endless cycles of making up and and breaking up with dieting. It’s either all restriction or all binging. And sometimes the cycles are daily. (“I was good all day, now I’m going to eat this tub of ice cream.”) Sometimes they are weekly. (“It’s Monday, I need to make up for what I did this weekend.”) No matter how long the cycles are, you know you are in this relationship if it is always either up or down.

The Big Dilemma - This is a shout-out to all of those who are constantly chasing a body ideal that is unrealistic and always outside their grasp. You might be in this relationship if you are constantly disappointed by the way you look or feel you have to go to extreme measures to look a certain way.  Having contentment and self-satisfaction right outside your reach is your motivator. I wish people in this relationship could know that true happiness is only in this moment, not “some day” when you fit into a certain dress size.

My So-Called Eating Life - This relationship is characterized by obsession.  In other words, your whole life revolves around what you are going to eat or not eat next. Whether it is an obsession with eating or restricting, this relationship is really unhealthy. And usually you are obsessing over food, so you can avoid some other issue. Having obsessive thoughts about food leaves little mental space to heal other parts of your life. You literally lose yourself in this relationship.

Scandal - This relationship with food is all about doing something you shouldn’t be doing. You overeat because it is naughty and you don’t play by the rules. You like being bad. You might be scandalous if you are always telling yourself that you can eat whatever you want. Who cares about health? Who cares about fueling your body? This relationship is all about the next rush of eating. Deep fried indulgences. And the sugary, the better.

Moonlighting - Are you constantly berating yourself and beating yourself into submission when it comes to eating? If you are always fighting what your body needs with what you think you should be eating, you might be moonlighting. You aren’t at peace with yourself and your relationship with food shows this.

Felicity - People in this relationship don’t know what they want. They aren’t clear on their goals. So they just eat whatever whenever. Being indecisive IS a decision. The information is out there but this food relationship is characterized by ambivalence. Chances are if this is your relationship with food, this is your relationship with yourself. 

As a viewer watching these iconic on-screen relationships, we could all see the errors of their ways and how much they hurt each other. What was so hard about watching these couples is that we all knew that they loved each other. It just took them a long time and a lot of bumps in the road to get together. But, here’s the thing that gives hope...they all ended up at peace with each other in the end. Whether they were together or not. 

As a nutrition coach, I firmly believe we all have the power to heal our relationship with food. I know there are so many outside factors that have caused so many dysfunctional relationships with food. The wellness industry, popular culture, unrealistic beauty standards as portrayed in media, a vast shift in how and what we eat in the last fifty years, fast food culture...I could go on. I know it feels like the deck is stacked against us and it’s no wonder we struggle with dysfunctional eating. But I am here today to say you have the power to find peace with your eating. Nurture that relationship. Forgive your past. Set goals for the future. But, most of all, live in the present and love who you are today.