Food as a Strategy

Day 39

There isn't one woman I know that doesn't have a complex relationship with food. No matter health or body image, food is a central theme in our lives.

I suppose it's difficult to pinpoint, but at some moment in each of lives, we stopped seeing food as sacred nourishment for connecting our spirit with the universe and started believing that food could be a replacement for something we were wanting.

As I change my diet and lifestyle for my 120 Day Challenge, my resistance to letting go of certain foods has become one of my deepest emotional blocks. As I got more irritated, somewhere a light bulb went off and I decided to apply Nonviolent Communication (NVC) techniques to my relationship with food.

Break out the food journal!

Having a food journal that can act as my therapist through this process has been a great tool. Just being able to write my observations seems to give me the incentive to let go.

I came to realize that these conflicted feelings weren't really about food. I mean just look at these yummy pictures of meals I've been cooking. It's not that I don't have delicious, scrumptious food to eat. It's that by letting go of a lifestyle I have somehow convinced myself that certain needs will not be fulfilled.

Here's an example of journaling about food using NVC.

Food on Beth's Endangered List: Hamburgers on the Grill

What memories, feelings, or things do I associate with grilled hamburgers?
Parties, friends, fun time spent with my husband, memories of family events, 4th of July celebrations, working at summer camp and playing with the kids, good conversation, storytelling, handsome guys working a grill, camping, making fires, , summer, freedom, no school, playfulness, beaches, and happiness

What are the some of emotional needs met by these things?
community, pleasure, connection with others, rest, joy, and freedom

If I had my needs for community, pleasure, connection, rest, joy and freedom met, what would I feel?
I would feel calm, centered, happy, safe, confident, and full of wonder.

You see I've tricked my brain into thinking this formula works:

grilled hamburger = connection = happiness

Take the hamburger away and my brain begins to think that one type of connection may have disappeared forever and my happiness buzz is in serious jeopardy.

Then I use to think that I had to replace the grilled hamburger with another strategy to meet my need for connection, which might look like this:

dinner with a friend = connection = happiness

This could wear a person down, because honestly when you are constantly looking for an external person, place or thing to meet an internal need you are going to run up against a lot of disappointment and frustration.

The real magic is this formula:


You have what you emotionally need at all times. It doesn't need a trigger or strategy to come to life. It's just there, and you can call on it whenever you want. When you start filling up on the feelings you are wanting, the feelings you can create with the most powerful tool you own -- your brain -- you will start to realize you don't need to grab for anything and everything that is available to you is enough.

I don't anticipate that my yearnings for certain foods will go away or I will stop grabbing for food when things get rough. But I am beginning to see that the deeper connection is finding out what might be below this longing and learning to honor its request in a new way.


  1. Or u can start adapting : "Eat to live, don't live to eat".... and I think if more people didn't associate food w/things, etc. and that just having the company and enjoying it, that that is the key... Same goes for the over eater who eats to satisfy some emotional issue...way to combat that is to get to the core of the problem...
    btw, i was salivating at your food photos!.

  2. Hello Beth,

    You are so observant. I have been in the weight-loss industry for years and still can't get my head around the issues of food as comfort. We are conditioned from birth that food will fulfill our needs, both physically and emotionally -- it's a hard connection to break. Thanks for sharing your food journal ideas -- it makes so much sense to try to figure out what is behind our desires for certain foods.


  3. Wow, you are really right on here. Food has been connected to needs for a long time, hasn't it - since the prosperity of the 50's really, I think. Your observations are just so right on! Thanks for this post!

  4. Beth, I have been thinking about these same things a lot over the last 2 years, so it's fascinating to read through your process.

    I have noticed that at times when I have felt the most loved, emotionally fulfilled and excited about life are the times when my appetite fades into the background and doesn't have such a commanding presence in my head. It always seems to find it's way back to the foreground though.

    It's scary how deeply rooted and ingrained these things are in our bodies and how we begin to unconsciously associate unhealthy food with happiness at such an early age. Thank you for sharing your stories and struggles - I am looking forward to seeing where this journey takes you. I hope I have the courage to try a 120 day challenge like this.

    Sara :)

  5. I love how you've taken the time to identify your emotional associations with food, and ferreted out the logical misconceptions that have developed for you. You've detached the emotional symbols of happiness (like a burger or a friend) from the happiness itself, and discovered where the causal relationship with happiness actually lies--as you say, it must be internal. We will be in constant turmoil if our happiness is connected to outside sources beyond our control, and that have finite resources (as you say, our friends only have so much energy). I've been doing the same thing with other aspects of my life that I tend to think I need to be "happy", and have come to largely the same conclusion as you have--so glad I read your post, it's a great confirmation.

  6. Chrissy, love your way of thinking about food!

    Emanda, i'ts good to know that you are still trying to sort this concept about food and comfort out and that it is a life long process!

    Sue, glad this post connected to you in a personal way :)

    Sara, what you said is so beautiful! I love this: "I have noticed that at times when I have felt the most loved, emotionally fulfilled and excited about life are the times when my appetite fades into the background and doesn't have such a commanding presence in my head. It always seems to find it's way back to the foreground though." It has me wondering if this is true for me and others. Still haven't got a handle on it!

    Lunedreams, so neat to hear another person discover a different type of happiness too! I'm finding it hard to describe because it's not what I anticipated. Good to hear your words :)


I'd love for you to share your ideas and stories on my blog! Please know that I may not always be able to e-mail you a direct response, so be sure to check back to my blog and continue the dialogue. Many blessings for connecting with me through word and image :)