Your relationship with food may be directly related to your relationship with others, including, and possibly primarily, your relationship with your parents. Infants learn that the world is safe and form bonds with caretakers by having their needs met consistently and promptly. These needs are sleep, comfort, cleanliness, and food. It is the first way that we experience love, caring, and by extension personal value.
When a child’s basic needs are not met consistently and lovingly, a child may develop an attachment disorder. Deborah Klinger, wrote on the Good Therapy blog, “Eating is inextricably entwined with being fed, nurtured, protected and loved.” I am sure I am not the only one with a grandmother (and a mother and aunts) who still nurture and express love, at least partially, through food.
When those needs of love, protection, and nurturing are not met by others, many revert to their very first lesson on the subject to meet the needs themselves. Although there are many ways to nurture ourselves, it makes sense that we would first consider the method we first learned. In those cases when you are turning to food, it is probably because you are feeling unvalued, unworthy, or inadequate. You will likely never be able to eat enough to meet those needs because you are not addressing the real feelings. You may also turn away from food because you feel unworthy of love and nurturing.
When your relationship with food is tied up in your relationship with yourself and how you feel about your relationships with others, you may need the help of a caring counselor or therapist to help you address those issues before you can develop a healthier relationship with food. We have to remember that it is OK to nurture ourselves. It is not necessary for someone else to meet our needs for love, protection, and nurturing. In fact, it is pretty dangerous to depend on someone else to meet those needs.
What other ways can you care for yourself? A bubble bath or a massage can be nurturing and a positive way to relate to your body. Some find exercising and preparing healthy meals to be a way to love oneself. Treat yourself to tickets to a sporting event, concert, or performance that you will enjoy. Valuing your feelings enough to write them down in a journal is an excellent way to care for yourself and address deeper needs. What other ways have you found to nurture yourself?
January 10th, 2010