Monday, August 15, 2011

Catching feelings.

I was counseling someone recently about healthy food choices. This wasn't actually a patient--it was an acquaintance who had been feeling a little bummed about weight management issues.

"I don't know what it is that makes it so hard for me to eat right. I mean. . .I try. . .but then I fall right back off again."

That conversation went similarly to discussions I have with patients. Next came my suggestions about portion control, healthy choices, filling up on lean proteins and vegetables, and easing up on the bread and carbs. The same ol' same ol'.


Since then I've been thinking about food and our relationships with food.  Because everyone has a relationship with food.  Some people enjoy their meals, but mostly look at it as nourishment. Sure, they indulge here and there. But for people with this kind of relationship with food, it's more of a "hookup" with no strings attached and they don't "catch feelings."

Let me quickly sidebar you on that for a second--this idea of "catching feelings."  I still remember this one night when I was sitting on the porch of my dorm talking about boys with a group of girls. One of them  had been "hanging out" with this guy who (totally) had a girlfriend (which now that I am reflecting on it makes me laugh out loud at this idea of folks thinking they were betrothed to anyone back then.) Anyways. Like I was saying, this girl and this (spoken for) guy were "hanging out." (read: being intimate/lovey dovey even though he had a girlfriend.) However, there was a bit of a problem, Houston--she liked him for real. But him? Oh, this was just casual and he was just "hanging out" on the "low-low." (There was lots of good slang in 1989, too.)

Now check it--seeing as dude was already attached to someone, he broke off their little situation stating that they couldn't "hang out" anymore seeing as she was "catching feelings" and all. Yeah, that's right. "Catching feelings."  That surprising (or not-so-surprising) side effect of spending time with someone or something such that you find yourself wanting more, please.  So him? He was "just chillin'."  And her? She was trying out his last name and picking out china patterns--rookie mistake.


See? I am thinking that this is how food is for some people. Like, no matter how hard some of us try. . . . at first it's just "hanging out" and then, despite our best efforts, we "catch feelings." We try diets and "lifestyle modifications" but as soon as food gives us an inch, we look up and now we've taken a mile. . . making those same rookie mistakes.

And why is that any way?

Harry and I have very different feelings about food.  For him, food has more love wrapped up inside of it than it does for me. He is incredibly disciplined in all areas of his life--but whenever we get on one of our "Team Manning" health kicks. . . .I can tell that it affects us differently. Like. . .it's almost. . .I don't know. . oppressive for him to eat egg whites and lean turkey for breakfast.  Yes, I meant to use that word--oppressive. 

Part of this has to do with how our mothers cooked (and still cook.)  My mom mostly cooked because we needed to eat. (No offense to my mother.) I don't recall hearing her agonizing over what to serve on a Sunday or mapping out a big Thanksgiving for fifty folks.  We always had delicious, hearty meals--yes. But with the exception of her (amazing) specialties--yeast rolls and homemade dressing--most of those things could be done fairly painlessly.

At least this was my impression.

My mother-in-law on the other hand? Fuggeddaboudit. When she comes to town, there is only one single thing we argue about--how much food she makes. Cakes. Pies. And not just cakes and pies. Several of them. Case in point--nobody ate the sheet cake I bought from Publix for Isaiah's second birthday because sweet Nana had also made. . .wait for it. . . TWELVE sweet potato pies, TWO red velvet cakes, and ONE key lime cake. Oh, and a big, giant vat of banana pudding.

Um, yeah.

In Harry's house growing up, Sunday meals start on Saturday. Chopping up things and soaking things and seasoning things. Sunday morning early the house is already filled with amazing scents wafting into the nostrils of sleepy little ones.  Homemade biscuits with butter pats on each one bake as she grates cheddar for macaroni and cheese. Bacon is sizzling in a frying pan and eggs are being scrambled with some of that same cheddar cheese folded in.  Oh, and do you want some hashed browns, too? Sure, baby, here you go. Real buttermilk cornbread getting poured into a cast iron skillet and brisket slow cooks all the while. Just like you like it.

After 24 hours of preparation and cooking. . . .the meal is but a memory by 5pm.  But the love could be tasted in every bite. . . and seen in the entire spread. Three meats, more sides than could be counted and of course, some sho'nuff dessert to top it off. The night ends with a house full of happy folks in comfort food comas.


So how do you tell folks who grow up with this to wake up to some steel cut oats and a dry ass piece of grilled chicken breast and steamed broccoli?  How do you say, "Chill on the butter" or "choose the berries for dessert?"  Like. . .how?

There's also folks who catch feelings for food later in life.  The love affair starts on the "low low" in college or after some pivotal time in your life. Maybe it's wrapped tightly inside of another relationship like with that of a bff or a summer romance. The food becomes a part of the celebration of happiness and most activities start to center around it.  Ever seen a newly wed like six months after the wedding with a few new curves? A lot of us have been there. . . all that love leads to some extra butter pats on biscuits in the morning. . .and some extra junk in that theoretical trunk. 


Look, man. I have no answers here. All I know is that food is real complex.  And I need to be thinking a little more carefully about that when counseling my patients in the future.

Because some people caught feelings for food a long time ago.  Or at some point.  So asking them to scale it back to just "hanging out" from a full on love affair is more than just a notion.


That's all I got today.

Happy Monday.

What's your relationship with food? Do y'all casually "hang out" or have you "caught feelings?"


  1. A lot of my happiest childhood memories revolve around food. I lived in the country, and my parents grew tons of fruits and veggies, and there was always some of our beef, pork, and chicken in the freezer. Fresh eggs all the time. They were organic before it was cool. I loved baking sweets with my mom.

    Now? I'm an anorexic, whose relationship with food is anything but simple. You probably don't encounter many of us in your practice, and I hate to be a downer, but my god is food hard for me. I spent three weeks in the hospital this spring and I want to stay out for good. Thanks for sharing the positive aspects of eating, because I would love to love it again (and yes I'm in ongoing treatment). I'm sorry that was a lot to share, but this post made a huge (positive) impact on me. Thanks.

  2. This is a brilliant post. I used to just hang out with food but have totally caught feelings in the last decade or so. I think about the tyranny of diet/food/exercise/culture all the time -- and rage about it inside.

  3. Food is so much more than fuel. It is SUCH a complex issue. If we could only follow Michael Pollan's rule: "Eat food, mostly plants, not too much."
    We have too many choices, the bad ones taste so good.

  4. There's some very compelling recent research suggesting that saturated fat is not the evil we've been told it is...and it makes sense, given that human beings have been eating meat and butter and such for thousands of years. If it's true, it makes it a lot easier, since who wants to give up butter and bacon? Biscuits though...they're definitely not healthy...but so good!

  5. I was seriously abused as a child. My mother would try to force me to eat healthy foods which I hated (like salads) and would beat me mercilessly until I ate it. Problem is, I never ate it, so I had no nutrition, and I am suffering with health problems today because of that. I always promised myself when I was young that if I survived the abuse and mom didn't kill me, I'd never eat anything she tried to force me to eat ever again. Now that I'm an adult, it's very hard for me to even try those foods. It's just too painful.

  6. IMHO the key to eating soul food is balance. I'd have the first pic for dinner in a heart beat (no pun intended). But for breakfast that day I'd have oatmeal/fruit, and for lunch grilled chicken breast salad with vinaigrette dressing.

    And a half-slice of red velvet cake for dessert!

  7. brilliant, insightful, compassionate post.

    so combine that "catching feelings" for food thing with a genetic predisposition to gain and hold onto weight, throw in a non functioning thyroid, and lots of self judgement and guilt-ridden, non-loving self talk, and houston, we have a problem.

    i have a problem. and i am listening.

  8. Love.

    At home we have to eat healthily. It's always been a very important thing at my house. No juice or fizzy except for special occasions, though we are allowed desert each night but would only eat out a few times a year. That being said, I do love food. I was always the weird kid at the birthday party that sat next to the bowl of chips because I don't really get to eat those at home. I eat out with friends, but usually just Subway or sushi and a frozen coke or chocolate milkshake. And also I buy my lunch once a week. I'm okay with that. I'm slim, I exercise, and its not like I eat like that all the time. I'm so thankful to my parents for helping us grow up in an environment of healthy eating, because I know that I'm so much more healthy because of it and it'll help me to continue those habits when I'm older.

  9. I like what Ms. Moon said. :) We should all follow the advice of MP. Unfortunately, we all fall short of that at times. Ironically (having not read your latest blog), I wrote on a similar topic and even ended up using similar descriptive words. :( I promise I didn't plagiarize! :P LOL!

  10. If you add the idea that food is love to the hormonal aspect of hunger,then consider that food is the center of almost every social thing we do, it's a train wreck for too many people.


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

Related Posts with Thumbnails