Everyone has a relationship to food. It doesn’t matter if you’re model thin, healthy weighted, are overweight, obese, or morbidly obese, we all have a relationship to food. Similar to other relationships, it can be a positive or a dysfunctional relationship. Sometimes the boundaries are skewed and unclear such as enmeshment or one where your dependence on the other is too much, as in co-dependence. The thing about food versus people is that you have a relationship to food, but food does not have a relationship with you. It doesn’t care about you or how you feel.
Relationships begin for many reasons and in a variety of ways, remember when you were in elementary school or middle school, and you liked someone? You might pass a note to that person in the class, or better yet get your best friend to do it. The conversation might go like this: “Hi, I like you. Do you like me? Check yes or no.” If it’s cake you’re admiring, it won’t answer back by checking a box on a piece of paper with pink hearts. It answers back by giving you immediate pleasure. Cake always says, “Yes.” After a while, you begin to lean on cake. You might even have the “relationship” talk with cake, in essence, “When I am sad, I call my friend Cake.” “When I am happy, I have cake.” In some aspects, you and cake are a couple: When you need it, cake will always be there.
We automatically define relationships with people: neighbors, friends, and coworkers. The boundaries around these relationships are defined, some subtle, some not so subtle. Your boundaries with coworkers may be defined by the confines of the office or building. You may not invite them to dinner, family gatherings, or share personal information with them. The relationship with your neighbor may be defined by an eight-foot fence, resulting in a clear boundary. Most of us don’t consider our relationship to food; we don’t consider effective boundaries regarding food. Similar to personal relationships, we develop our relationship to food slowly and over time. Just like dysfunctional relationships with a partner, family members, or coworkers, we may find ourselves in a dysfunctional relationship with food and not even know it till it’s too late. When you do realize the relationship you are in is not working, what do you do? You have the “talk.” The breakup talk.
Lee’s Breakup letter:
You first came into my life the year I started 8th grade. Before that, we met a few times. However, it was forgettable. During that year a brand new Pizza Hut was built close to my house. Dave reintroduced us. Dave loved you. He piled you high with hot pepper flakes. Being older, Dave showed me how much fun it was to each get a separate one of you, with a very thin crust and see who could finish you off. We both did. From that time on, you were involved in all my fun. After school activities, my friends and I would visit with you and chat, laugh and cut up. My time with you at Pizza Hut was special. You were part of my many firsts, including my first date with my now wife.
Later in college, you were there as we viewed all the sporting events; you were “cool” – beer and pizza, everyone’s favorite. You became a very versatile friend especially when I discovered how good you were cold in the morning. Our relationship got closer when you could be in my hands right on the couch in 30 minutes or less, or you were FREE! Your communal ways were so enticing, always bringing people together and never just an individual item, there was always a lot of you served for consumption—so when I ate more of you, it wasn’t really noticed. You became so available, always there, always accommodating, always a phone call always, and always at a good price. The days of you being served by waiters on tables passed; you were everywhere all the time. This was quite comforting as so many things in life are not always there—even if they promise to be.
Over our years together you brought comfort and excitement followed by serenity. As I traveled, you helped me sleep, bringing me thrills then slumber. Yes, it’s true, my eye wondered, and I pursued others, and I devoured them, but you, you, were not left far behind for very long, always the love of my life.
Let’s not just focus on the positive. WE both know what then followed. As JB says,“Some people claim, there’s you to blame…but I know it’s my own damn fault.” So, I thank you for the years of comfort, dedication, enjoyment, bonding, and excitement you have given me. Now, it is time to part ways. “It’s me, not you.”
Do you lean on food such as cake or pizza for comfort, companionship, or escape? Writing a breakup letter helps you create boundaries around your relationship to food. Sometimes we need to break up completely other times we need to create a boundary. Think of it as an 8-foot fence with a gate. Creating guidelines rather than rules helps you be flexible when necessary.
What foods do you need to set guidelines around?
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