Are Your Experiences Always Focused On Food? - It Begins With A Thought Coaching

Are Your Experiences Always Focused On Food?

natalie brown foodA night to remember

I had such a core memory making evening last weekend. My husband’s friend has a VIP box at the outdoor concert venue where I live and they weren’t using their tickets for the Jack Johnson concert so we took our whole family and my little sister and her husband to the concert. We got a serious VIP experience which we are not accustomed to. I mean we consider ourselves very important people but we do not live this kind of VIP life. 🙂

We had up front parking, our own VIP entrance, amazing and comfortable seats, a server that came to our box and brought us anything we wanted at the touch of a button, and my girls got to skip the line at the merch booth and get the sweatshirts they wanted. It was the perfect temperature, a clear sky, the most ideal summer night. The music was awesome and the show itself was just a feel-good happy 2 hours. And to top it off, it was my younger daughter’s very first concert-I told her it was all downhill from here and that not all concert experiences are like this:) We really set the bar high. But anyway-she was so amazed.

She has been listening to Jack Johnson non-stop since we told her about the tickets about a month ago…she loved him before that but got super dedicated once she knew she was going to see him live so she just couldn’t have been more pumped when he came out and the music started and she knew every word to every song he played.

She does this super cute thing when she is excited…she bounces up and down…and she was just bouncing in her seat for like the whole first song. And taking pictures and videoing and singing along with her big sis. We sat behind them so the whole thing is just burned into my brain. Them just so happy, having so much fun, my whole family together, listening to live music, enjoying a beautiful summer night. We drove together and got there pretty early so we had lots of time before the concert to hang out and chat too…It was just perfection. It is burned into my brain as one of those things I won’t forget and can take myself back to and smile anytime.

Notice what is missing in my memory of the evening…in what stands out to me as I look back on it and tell the story? What we ate. Once upon a time, what I ate, what the food was like…that would lead every story. That was the most important and often driving factor to every night out, every vacation, every holiday…the food. Where we would eat, what we would eat, what else we would eat. It colored every memory.

More than just food

Because I was always in scarcity mode, always in restriction mode and so I was always looking for a break or some relief from that…even when I was in all out, eating whatever, non diet phases…it was always only temporary in my mind and so I had to get it in-whatever food I had labeled as bad and wrong and off limits I had to eat while I had the chance. And so the importance of the food became magnified. Food was at the forefront. It was always on my mind and was always my focus and my motivator.

But now, it’s not. It’s a part of what I do. It’s a part of nights out and holidays and birthdays and vacations. And I even eat things in special places and special occasions that I don’t normally eat…like churros at Disneyland-I don’t eat them or even want them anywhere else. But it’s not the reason the special place or special occasion is special. The people, the atmosphere, the activities, the views, the feeling, the smells, the conversation, the memories, the music…that is why it’s special. That is what my memories are made of now.

It’s so much more than the food. It’s the whole experience.

While we were there at the concert my little sister and I reminisced about a trip my step mom and I took several years back to visit her in Mississippi where she was attending grad school at Ole Miss. It was in the fall, in the heart of football season, and I don’t know if you are familiar with the south and college football?? But oh my goodness. I had NO idea. It’s like a religion…and they have all sorts of long standing traditions at Ole miss. As we walked through the oxford town square near the school every shop you came to was selling clothes and hats and scarves and jewelry in the school colors…everyone came to the games completely decked out in whole outfits that were coordinating school colors. I’m not talking sweatshirts with the school name on it or jerseys of your favorite player, I’m talking like a red suit with a Navy tie or a navy dress with red boots and a red hat…like fancy clothes that are the school colors.

One of their traditions is the running of the tents. It is the night before game day and everyone literally runs and grabs their spot in the grove (the big grass field on the campus near the stadium) to set up the tents for tailgating the whole next day. This is not like a little shade canopy with some camping chairs…we’re talking gorgeous tents like you would see at a wedding with chandeliers and full size catered buffets and tv’s playing the games on them. Row after row after row of the most elaborate setups you’ve ever seen. It blew my mind.

Football was only a part of what we did while we were there. We went to my sister’s favorite little bookstore on the square, and to the most quintessential southern restaurant called Taylor grocery where we ate southern classics in the most unique eclectic restaurant environment I’ve ever been in. It’s imperfect perfection. We drove around and looked at all the houses and the trees dressed in all of the colors of fall. We just soaked in this little corner of the south and all of its charm.

Obviously one of those core memory trips. We ate food, and the food of that region played a role, but it wasn’t about the food. We had a 4 day weekend of experiences and culture and sights and smells and conversations and laughter and we ate food too. The whole trip was so much more than food.

I want you to think back to some of your core memory evenings or trips or holidays-the ones that are burned into your brain…the details clear, the feelings and images accessible…the important, like it was yesterday kind. Tell the story. Notice what you lead with, what fills the nooks and crannies and what it is focused on. What stands out. If it’s about the food…it’s ok. That’s good to know. That’s how it is for a lot of us that treasure food…even though we don’t really want to. Most of us don’t want it to be all about the food. But our relationship with food is fraught. We love it, but it is forbidden, and therefore commands more of our attention than we want to give it. We spend more time focused on it, more time thinking about it, and more time prioritizing it then we want to. Events, Holidays, vacations become completely centered on it.

And here’s the unfortunate part of that…we ended up not being able to see past the food to what else there is. And there is so much more than food.

Notice I didn’t say ignore the food, the food is not part of this, you have to un-love food for this to work. We just want to expand our view to all of the many parts of our experiences beyond JUST the food. Food will always be a part of trips and holidays and nights out and birthdays and events…because we are human bodies and we need to eat. But the food can be an equal or inconsequential part rather than the most important or biggest part.

Balancing our love of food

In order to have this more balanced view of food and its role in the special parts of our lives…we have to get it off of its pedestal and can not eat lists, out of bad food jail, released from forbidden food prison.

We have to start to neutralize food. Food is a pile of ingredients. It’s just sitting there. We imbue it with meaning and value and villainize and outlaw it. Certainly It has a taste and mouthfeel that we use to make judgments about whether we like it or not or want to eat it or not. It’s different for everyone. Your very favorite foods may not be your best friends and vice versa because it’s personal. And same goes for whether it’s right or wrong or good or bad or healthy or naughty or off limits-we make judgements about food’s value that are personal as well.

But the reality is, it’s just a list of ingredients prepared in a certain way. It grows in the ground or on a bush or vine or tree-or comes from an animal who eats things that grow in the ground or on a vine or tree. Or for some of our favorite forbidden foods it’s basically created in a lab and reproduced and packaged for our consumption.

It’s not right or wrong or good or bad. It’s just food. Spend time really thinking about this-look at your food and think about what it is just based on facts-these cheetos are made of corn and oil and baked and rolled in orange cheese flavored powder.

Then ask: is it important to me to eat this food? If so, why? Maybe you only got to eat cheetos as a kid when you went to your cousins house because your parents never bought stuff like that and your cousins parents always did. So it felt fun to eat it, and it felt like you had to eat it while you had the chance because you didn’t know when you would have access to it again. And so your little child brain made a note…this food is rare and yummy and therefore very important. When you have access to it, eat as much as you can. And you are still living by that tenet.

But here’s the beauty of being a grown up. You get to take a look at these tenets adopted by your little brain and question them and wonder about them and look at them with your critical adult brain and make decisions. You get to decide what serves you and what doesn’t. What is important to you now. What aligns with who you want to be and are becoming. You can have them whenever and in whatever quantities you want.

So the only thing you need to worry about is whether or not you want them, how much you want and how often. You get to consider what your health goals are and how Cheetos fit into that. When Cheetos are available to you all the time if you want and you are in charge of when you get to eat them and how much, you are no longer needing to operate on the tenet that they are important and scarce. They are just one among thousands of crunchy salty snack foods to choose from at any time. When your view expands to how you want to feel and what you want for your life and body rather than just how much can I eat because who knows when I’ll get to have some again, the food starts to look different.

Just because you choose to give yourself the freedom to eat anything…doesn’t mean you will then choose to eat everything. Often that permission given, the focus on the abundance of the food and freedom to eat it, creates the opposite effect. You eat with more intention, more calm. There is less drama around the food, you feel less controlled by the food. The food doesn’t have such a pull. You stop eating when you are done instead of just when it’s gone.

This is a process that takes time. This will not be a way of being that you just adopt tomorrow and don’t look back. It’s an unlearning that has to take place. But this is critical to changing your relationship with food. The reason it looms so large is because of the fraught relationship you have with it right now. The scarcity around it, the forbidden nature of it. We have to change that first.

Paying attention to what else there is
The other part of you being able to see beyond the food is to really start to pay attention to what else there is. See if you can tell the story of your past special memories like I did…how did it feel to be there-think about your 5 senses as well as your emotions. What happened? What are some of those pictures that are burned into your brain? When it comes to holidays…who are the people and what are the stories behind the traditions that make them special? There is so much more than food.

I was just thinking about Thanksgiving dinner at my Grandma’s. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t really celebrate Thanksgiving anymore-we just go on a trip instead and take advantage of the time off. That’s because what was special to me about Thanksgiving was not the eating of the food or the particular foods themselves. I realize it is a food centered holiday so it’s about the food for most people.

But for me it was the hands that prepared the food and the magic that the love and care and time that went into it. My grandma made everything from scratch. She spent days preparing and then was up in the wee hours bringing it all together. She molded little individual butters shaped like turkeys for each guest. She served individual waldorf salads in crisp lettuce leaf cups. She handmade and shaped these most delicate little rolls that were folded perfectly together. She made fluffy mashed potatoes and buttery corn and pies and stuffing and turkey.

And my grandpa was in charge of the yams. He would cook them slowly in his electric fry pan. I remember watching him meticulously turn them over and over for what felt like hours getting them perfectly sweet and caramelized. The house was always warm from all of the cooking and the table was always decorated impeccably with beautiful table cloths and cloth napkins and napkin rings and handmade decorations mixed with the decorations that came back year after year-like an adorable little pair of pilgrim candles that now grace my mantle every November in her memory. It was centered on food, but it was so much more than food. It was family and my tiny sweet grandma floating around making sure everyone was fed and happy before she ever sat down and ate anything herself.

So here’s something you can try…next time you are out to dinner where you would normally be focused on the food…open your eyes and mind and heart to what else there is.

What is the story beyond the food? What else is the experience made up of? Pay attention to your five senses, your feelings, the company, the conversation. It doesn’t have to be a core memory moment that is burned into your memory forever, but if you were just going to describe it to a friend when you got home, or write down a few things about it in your journal, what would you say?

It’s so much more than food.

Have an expansive week seeing beyond it!

If you are wanting more help focusing on more than just food with your experiences, come apply to love first weight loss.

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I spent over 2 decades battling my weight and hating my body, before I found a solution that worked FOR GOOD. I lost 50 pounds by changing not just what I eat, but WHY. Now I help other women like me get to the root of the issue and find their own realistic, permanent weight loss success. Change is possible and you can do it. I can help you.

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