Tis the Season: Finding Joy in Food

happy-food-faceTis the season for gathering with family and reminding your loved ones through presents (or maybe just hugs) how important they are in your life. While in the warmth of holiday happiness, this may be a good time to think about the relationships you have that could use some TLC. Admittedly, I could use a good look at my relationship with the TV show “Scandal” (talking about Olivia Pope like she’s a close friend may border on unhealthy). For many, the relationship to examine is their relationship with food.

As a registered dietitian, I’ve noticed a sharp decline in positive discussion about food, whether in the media or at my own dinner table. Too often, I see that food has become a source of fear and anxiety, rather than a source of enjoyment and sustenance.

Beyond the thankfulness we have for access to safe, nutritious, and affordable food, there’s a psychological component that seems to be missing from many meals: HAPPINESS. Families rally around the enjoyment of eating for holiday meals, but what about the rest of the year? Of course, food gets associated with broad, global issues like obesity, but those issues shouldn’t overshadow the simple joy of eating delicious food.

Is it possible to be conscious of your health while still finding joy in food? The answer is yes. Without using the M word (…moderation- OK, I used it), try to think about our relationship with food as a spectrum.

dont-forget-to-have-fun-with-foodOn one side, you can obsess over every morsel that enters your mouth. On the other side of the spectrum, you can tune out all dietary guidance and go “no-holds-barred” with every food you come into contact with. I would not recommend either side of this spectrum, but instead aiming to fall right in the middle. This means that you appreciate food for the nutrients it provides and the enjoyment it brings, while still being cognizant of health goals. I have lived periods of my life on both sides of the spectrum, and I can confidently say that “middle dwelling” is both possible and extremely rewarding.

If you’re looking to find your way back to the middle of the spectrum, remember, your relationship with food is just like any other relationship in your life. It requires conscious effort to flourish. Decide now to officially divorce yourself from the guilt, fear, and anxiety that gets associated with food, and open up your relationship with food to new emotions: trust, satisfaction, and happiness.

Both Olivia and I think you will be glad you did.