BRING IT TO BARB Answering your questions on mental health, relationships and life issues

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Dear Barb,

I think I have a bad relationship with food. Is this possible? Could it be the reason I am never satisfied?

Signed,

Unsatisfied

Dear Unsatisfied,

Absolutely, that is why! The best relationship versus food analogy I can use is to think back when you would bite your tongue really hard and it was painful for days. Or you had a monstrous canker sore on your lip. It hurt when you ate, smiled or even talked. During meals the following days afterward, I’m sure you were very careful and aware of every bite you would take, possibly cutting each morsel into tiny little pieces to slowly and carefully put it in your mouth. Every chew you would taste the food over and over in your mouth. Chances are you were reluctant to eat because it was so painful, but your hunger won that battle after you couldn’t stand it any longer. That is a genuine relationship with your food. You are paying attention to each little taste and slowly chewing with such care. You’re enjoying the event of eating for what it can be, even if it’s painful. It is never the whole focus of your attention all day long however. The necessity of eating was postponed intentionally until the painful act of eating with a canker sore or a sliced tongue was unavoidable. It’s an attitude of purposeful nourishment, not a famine relief.

Now once you’ve established a balanced relationship with food and its priority of importance, you can make choices as to what foods you will even have any relationship with! Like human friendships in our lives, we decide what percentage of ourselves to give time and consideration to and that’s up to each of us and our needs.

When you have a canker sore, I can pretty much bet you wouldn’t deliberately bite into a juicy, acidic orange that would burn so badly that you would run around the house screaming, flailing your arms and retrieving an ice pack from the freezer. That would be self-sabotaging.

But choices of food should be just as earthshaking in my opinion. For example, an avocado from Florida has 8.87 grams of fat. A California avocado has 17.3 grams of fat. But an average hamburger patty has 23 grams of fat and nowhere near the additional nutrients and quality of healthy fat content. Do the math. That accounts for more than half of the 44 grams you’d shoot for a day, based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Do your research, keeping track of what foods you will even continue a relationship with.

Begin a new relationship with food by loving all the qualities about each food. How that food makes you feel and satisfies you is important, just like in any relationship. For instance, just a handful of almonds during the day can bring about a lasting effect of gratification until you allow yourself the time to create a meal that you can savor and enjoy. Faster isn’t always better!

One more piece of personal advice to begin your new relationship with food: “Eat what you buy, and buy what you eat” period, no exceptions! Don’t sabotage yourself by purchasing what you shouldn’t eat, using the excuse that it’s for a family member or company or a well-deserved treat. Similarly, putting in your grocery cart a particular vegetable, only to take it home and let it rot away in the refrigerator because your heart wasn’t into it, even with good intentions in your head at the time, is self-sabotaging as well. You will always be mad and disappointed in yourself, unconsciously ruining your relationship with food once more and creating self-dissatisfaction.

Self-dissatisfaction is a common, low-level complaint of self-dislike that is so endemic that it is often just dismissed. But what starts as occasional angst can become constant, and what becomes constant angst causes choices of the self-defeating, even self-destructive kind every day. Self-dissatisfaction can gradually cause significant unhappiness to take hold and, at worst, lead into the murky depths of despondency.

My book has several chapters relating to food and food addiction. I use the acronym GOMBS for my motto. G-greens, O-onions, M-mushrooms, B-beans/berries and S-seeds. My goal every day is to include GOMBS in my food relationship because it makes me feel better. Why not give it a try?

Barb Rock is a mental health counselor for the House of Matthew Homeward Bound program in Tacoma, and the published author of “Run Your Own Race: Happiness after 50.” Send any questions related to mental health, relationships or life issues to her at BarbRockrocks@yahoo.com.

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