Memorial Day has passed and the launch of summer season has occurred here in Philadelphia area – the opening of swimming pools, barbeques, and the start of trips to the beach. Recently, I had overheard two women talking over lunch at a restaurant at the King of Prussia Plaza about their dread of having to deal with “the bathing suit issue.” Summer seems to bring increased awareness to weight, shape and body type, as there is less room to hide in warm weather clothing. Curious, however, that as a culture obsessed with thinness, we are the most overweight country in the world with 65% of adults being overweight and 30% obese. And, we often don’t understand the difference between having a few extra pounds on us, and being overweight or obese. This lack of understanding can get in the way of addressing food and weight issues, for as we know a solution to any given problem is only as good as our understanding of the problem.
As a licensed counselor, behavior therapist and certified addictions specialist, I work with people to help them change problem behaviors. When I see clients in my Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia or West Chester, PA office I often hear about food problems – Especially, when working with addictive behaviors with substances or problems with emotions overwhelm and distress. Overeating, bingeing and unhealthy food choices are often a part of the issue are generally part of the addictive picture.
Getting it Right with Our Relationship with Food
Food is our most significant relationship in life. It is our sustenance – our survival; equally important as the air that we breathe. Eating is the way we attached to our mothers bonding with and being soothed and nourished as completely dependent beings when we entered the world – eating provided a way of feeling safe connected and whole. Growing up, specific foods and the traditions around them become rituals: a means of celebration, mourning, managing feelings and emotions, reward, as well as being with one another in a social sense. Food can also be used as a “social lubricant,” much like alcohol, sports, and related activities.
Ultimately, food is powerful – Eating is not a habit to be broken nor is abstinence an option when we have a problem with food or eating, whether it involves, overeating, bingeing, or restricting. Understanding why we eat or don’t eat, and why we choose the foods we choose, are necessary in order to stabilize this critical relationship.
Our relationship with food is a relationship that we need to get right.
In order to get or stay healthy we must identify eating patterns and potential problems that can lead to abuse of food, addiction, and chronic health conditions. My practice, Integrated Treatment Solutions, located near Lafayette Hill, Montgomery County and Exton, Chester County does not provide medical treatment, but does work with the behavior factors which influence human health and well-being. We know that problem behavior does not improve over time without proper intervention.
As we learn in life, solving a problem is not just about finding the “one factor” or cause, but the many factors involved which play against and feed off one another fueling the problem. Mending our relationship with food is no different. We need to understand the biological, social and mental/ emotional drivers which form and sustain the habits and patterns we have with problem eating.
Living Well Weekly’s next topic: Understanding Obesity & Food Addiction