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Comfort Food Culture

Several cultures whose foods have literally changed the dining industry.  Mexican food, Jewish food, Chinese food, Indian food…the list is endless.  Believe it or not, each of these cultures has their own set of beliefs about eating in general.  The more you eat, the healthier you are.  Some foods, like pork or dairy products, are avoided in the cooking of some cultures.  Other foods, like bread, are to be eaten with every meal. 

I grew up with soul food.  It was, plain & simple, good home-cooking to feed your soul.  Some people call it comfort food.  Fried catfish, black-eyed peas with ham hocks, red beans and rice, cornbread, greens, peach cobbler—all of those foods make me remember the comforts of home.

Unfortunately, if we’ve developed a distorted perception of food, or our thinking about body image has been tainted by unrealistic images and body types in the media, there’s no more “comfort” in food.  In fact, food itself becomes an enemy we have an obsessive need to control and defeat.  Every meal becomes a battlefield.  The words “comfort” and “food” are polar opposites—no matter how hard we try to find the right food to soothe us.  At that point, it’s our thinking that’s causing us the discomfort, and we try to extract comfort from the food.

I’m not talking about your average craving.  Sometimes we have a taste for something sweet or salty.  I’m not talking about the normal human feeling of having an appetite, or normal hunger either.  Our body’s way of letting us know we need to fuel up is by giving us the sensation of hunger.  That’s natural and healthy.

I’m talking about a specifically distorted kind of THINKING, which given free reign in our brains, colors every meal we contemplate, and every food we eat.

The pressure to look stick-thin, whether it’s healthy or not, is intense.  Rather than celebrating our diverse shapes and sizes, there is relentless pressure to have a specific body type at all costs.  This is truly unfortunate because it costs some people their lives.

We need food to live.  Unlike narcotics or alcohol, we actually MUST have food or we will die.  There’s even more of a twist when considering eating disorders.  What happens when we abuse food the same way an addict would abuse drugs or alcohol?  That’s where it gets tricky.  Here’s where our thinking, once again, comes into play.

Bread, potatoes, beef, lettuce, chocolate, grapes—these are all foods.  There’s nothing wrong with them, but when we start eating them en masse to comfort ourselves, to avoid feeling something—pain, grief, anger—that’s when we begin to cross a line that for some people, ends in unhealthy eating habits, or even an eating disorder.

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