Have you read my blog post drawing comparisons between sugar-filled foods and narcotic drugs yet? Today I’ll be talking more about the comparison of food to other addictive substances. I don’t think there’s a question for most people that certain foods, for example, especially those that are high in sugar and excess salt and fat, can have addictive properties in our lives.
There is a lot of research that is done on addiction in and of itself. The substance or behavior that is in question is a huge part of the question. However, there is information that indicates the role that relationships and society play regarding addiction, and I think this relates a lot to the way that we interact with food in our lives.
I’m going to talk about the 5 ways that socio-cultural factors affect addiction, according to www.rehabs.com, and draw comparisons to how I think and feel about food (1).
- The bonding experience. This references the way that people use certain substances to ease social situations. I couldn’t agree more about this one!
- Relief from stress. This one is pretty self-explanatory, and again, I’m sure most of us agree. When I come home from a long day at work or class, if something comes up that I’d just rather avoid, or if I wake up in the middle of the night while my brain is racing, I reach for comfort foods, and usually the ones that contain unnatural amounts of salt and sugar.
- Sense of community. I think that often the culture and community of those nearest to us has a lot of influence over our eating patterns. Food is a part of every culture, and every family unit or community has its own culture, so it therefore each has its own unique way of relating to food. What ways have your personal culture contributed to the way you eat and think about food?
- The allure of rebelling. This one is a little bit more of a stretch for me, but I can still definitely see the comparisons! When we start to exercise our own independence as young people, that can mean breaking rules that we grew up with regarding what we were allowed to eat and when. Now that we are unsupervised, we can eat whatever, whenever, and those habits can be hard to break, even once we decide we want to get healthy someday when we’re older.
- Lifestyle appeal. This one might seem a little counter-intuitive, but I think it’s important to address the negative effects of over-eating healthy foods. We put a lot of emphasis on foods that are good for us, but the reality is that food and everyone’s genetic makeup is complicated. Sometimes we see people who appear to have a really healthy lifestyle, and in an effort to be like them, we try to simply change our food. This is a sign of putting a lot of emphasis on what we eat and the power it has over our lives, sometimes to an unhealthy extent. For example, my doctor who delivered my baby told me I was undernourished several months ago. I had to turn around and see if he was really talking to me. I trust his knowledge and I was faced with the facts of having to change. I was taking my nutrition to the extreme and it was affecting my health. I’ll talk more about this later, but some of it had to do with my over-exercising and under-eating, in addition to a distorted body image.
My doctor is one person that has had a really positive effect on my relationship with food. He does a great job of keeping me accountable. He recently quoted Hippocrates to me: “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” This is a great piece of advice that helps me stay on track no matter how the relationships around me influence the way I relate to food.
This week, I encourage you to look at each of these five effects in your own life in particular. You can tell me whether you agree or disagree with my thoughts on each one! I welcome your conversation so that I can learn from you.