Saturday, December 29, 2007

Healthy Eating I

So what do you make of this: A society that has obesity rampant also has thousands of young women who are starving themselves with eating disorders?

Food can feed us or it can make us sick! It is one of those things that too much is as bad as too little! Where is middle ground? Who determines the middle ground?

It is not surprising that what we do with food makes a huge impact on our health. If we are sick, it's a near certainty food will be a factor. If we are unhealthy, food is a factor. If we are healthy, food is a factor. The problem stems from two obvious facts: 1) Eating is a necessity for living. 2) We have to confront eating multiple times every day.

Food is like a profound life-long friend/foe. It is symbiotically bound to you by virtue of its necessity to your life; and like a true person, food takes on a personality and has a living relationship with you. The diet you live (not the one you impose artificially for some weight purpose) is set by a huge number of psychological and experiential moments from that first bite of baby food that was put into your mouth. Every act of eating carries powerful reminders of other past and present experiences in your life. Through food experiences most of us develop a set of about 20 foods that comprise more than 80% of our diet. If we are exceedingly fortunate those 20 foods will be the healthiest ones on the planet: lean protein, dark green leafy vegetables, high fiber, low sugar, natural whole foods. Sadly in America, we are not likely to have these be the 20 selections we live. Compound what we eat with the situation that through eating we connect with others in the human community (e.g. family, friends, acquaintences...) and eating/food becomes a extraordinarily complicated act.

Dieting does not only entail changing WHAT is eaten, it also involves addressing all the activities, thoughts, and emotions that are wrapped up in and connected with eating. Not too surprisingly, when one's life gets crazy and out of control sometimes the only thing that can be controlled is what goes in one's mouth. Depending on your coping experiences this might mean putting MORE food down or it may mean removing food altogether. Hence we see lots of overweight people eating themselves into early graves trying to feel good about a life out of balance, while others slip into anorexia trying to feel better about who they are.

Healthy eating involves what food you eat certainly, but just as important it involves HOW you eat. The how takes into consideration what present experiences of interacting with this life-long friend/foe you want foster. A rushed slam dunk of a cheese burger and a sucked down pop loaded with artificial sweetener from the Hip Hop Zoom Through is much different than making a careful plan of finding the most nutritious food, quietly eaten in a contemplative moment with a good friend. Which of those options sounds healthier to you? Why choose the other?

Might you have an eating disorder? Take this screening quiz

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