Do you ever come home after a long day of work or school and the only thing you can think about is just relaxing in front of the television set with a bowl of chips or a pint of ice cream? Or do you look forward to your husband or wife being out so that you can sit by yourself and dig in to a big plate of pasta? Do you ever feel like food is the only thing that you have to look forward to, that you look forward to your evening alone with food like a date night with yourself? Does food sometimes feel like your secret lover? Do you cherish your time alone with it? If so, you might find that you’re having an intimate relationship with food rather than with your partner or with other people.
Today I was discussing with one of my clients how food serves as her closest relationship. She was reflecting on how she wanted to cut a date short so that she could go home alone and eat– she couldn’t well binge in front of him, and she spent the date thinking about getting home and ordering in so that she could eat the way she wanted to– alone.
She realized that she has been involved in a long, intense, tumultuous, close, unrequited love affair with food. She’s obsessed with food and loves spending time with it, but she knows that food does not make her feel good about herself.
Does this resonate for anyone else? Do you feel like you’d rather be alone with food than most anyone else? If so, you might be substituting food real intimacy.
So what to do?
Well, the first thing is to become aware of it. Consciousness is always the first step in transforming behaviors. When you notice that you are looking forward to going home and eating alone, remind yourself that food will never give you the love that you’re looking for.
Next, understand what your motivation for using food is. Are you having trouble finding intimacy in your current relationship? Are you and your partner not nurturing your relationship? Not spending time talking about your feelings? Are you using food to stuff your feelings? If so, you might begin to discuss with your partner how you both might change that, how you both might learn to sit down and discuss your feelings together. How you might “check in” with each other throughout the day and sit down together after work to talk about your respective days and your feelings.
If you are single, are you using food as a substitute for a relationship? Are you afraid of getting into a relationship or afraid of trying? Afraid of rejection? If so, can you begin to look away from food as a companion and begin to look toward friends and possible lovers for companionship? If so, you will need to let go of your fear of rejection. Rejection is always part of dating and relationships and it happens to everyone. Check out this post on dealing with rejection.
When you are with people, try to look them in the eye and really connect. Try to enjoy the people you are with, especially if you find that you are fixated on food, try to refocus on the conversation you’re having. Like in meditation, it’s okay if your mind drifts, but bring yourself back. Bring yourself into the present moment with the person you are with rather than leaving the conversation for your fantasy about being alone and eating. Don’t let that fantasy carry you away. Notice it and come back to the present moment.
If food really feels like the only thing that you have to look forward to, sit down and make out a list of the other things that you enjoy doing. Think about what you’d like to do when you are home and alone. Think about what goals you might have that you’d like to accomplish, things that you would be doing if you weren’t in this intense relationship with food. If this feels impossible, you might want to find ways not to be alone very much. You can invite friends over for a movie, you can meet out for coffee, you can go make a phone date to talk to someone. You can go to support group meetings or online or telephone into group meetings. The idea is to not let food be your companion or your best friend. You’re looking to integrate safe people into your life to help you feel more comfortable out in the world without using food.
Think about the following questions and see if they resonate for you.
Have you been using food to avoid intimacy? If so, how? Is this something that you’re ready to give up? If so, what would you (could you) be doing to create real intimacy instead of eating?