We are all creatures of habit. Let’s take inventory. What do you eat or drink habitually? We each lead very different lives and food and drink are faithful medicines that help ease the runaway train of emotions we feel on a daily basis.
There’s caffeine for when we feel sluggish, cigarettes and comfort food for when we are nervous, a cola to keep us company while driving in the car, ice cream for late at night when we’re bored. Name the emotion and there just might be a food or beverage that routinely piggybacks right along with it.
Looking back on your history, what you were fed as a child, and whether or not you learned how to soothe yourself and manage your emotions, predisposed you to the eating habits you have now. Simply put, we like what we like because of how we were raised.
In a culture of busy, fragmented parenting, sometimes it’s easier to hand a child a sucker, burger, or soda than to spend the time and energy to get to the real need. Sedating children with treats is easier than engaging and attending to them. I’ve been there myself. Sadly, our children grow up reaching for that treat. No one with a food compulsion that I’ve ever met eats too much spinach. We need that treat to sooth us— that sucker or burger or fill-in-the-blank. And that’s exactly why we jones for certain types of foods — breads, colas, chocolate, sweets, chips, crackers, coffee, alcohol — whatever.
As the meals and the years go by, we continue to reach for the substance that we think will make us feel better right now. It didn’t happen overnight. It probably took years, even decades, to develop a full-blown food addiction. And only you can honestly look inside and decide whether it’s a propensity, a food you’re drawn to, or if it really has you — you have to have it and can’t refuse it — an addiction. At the end of the day, whether it’s Twinkies or Jack Daniels, we want to be soothed.
So, it seems the bad news is that taste is acquired. But really, that’s good news, too. Tastes change. Every day we choose, bite by bite and sip by sip, what goes into our mouths. When we step out of our comfort zone and try a food that’s not on our favorites list but has benefit to the body, we’re reconditioning our sense of taste. It pays in long-term dividends. Not only do we get the nutritional value at the moment, but we’re setting ourselves up to make better choices in the future, or acquiring a new taste. We’re practicing eating well.
All addiction and compulsion is an attempt to soothe ourselves. But if a food, beverage or substance has you, meaning you have it daily and cannot refuse it, it’s depleting your personal power.
Practicing refusal fortifies and perfects us so we can be the masters of our own lives. Refusal is among the most elegant and powerful of gestures. And self mastery makes possible the truest expression of who we are.
I’ll see you in two weeks,
Love & health,
LOA BLASUCCI lives in La Cañada and teaches courses at the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge. Her website is www.gotoloa.com.