The Emotion of Food

Oh brother, is there absolutely nothing worse than to hear someone rant on about self actualization, self improvement or any topic that begins with “self”? I mean, really, who gives a shit about what someone else thinks?

I am the kind of guy who steps in when I see a situation that needs stepping in to. You know, the guy who stops after a traffic accident to see if there is anything I can do even though I am not a medical professional. I am not one who can sit idly by and leave it to someone else to do something.

Seven weeks ago I began a new practice of putting food in the place food was intended to go – fueling my body to live the best life I am able. Admittedly, and even with the best of intentions and denials, my weight at 310 pounds was unsustainable unless I was ready to buy one of those mobility scooters seen on the afternoon and weekend commercials. Not only did I not want to do much outside of my video editing career, I mostly couldn’t do much else for very long periods of time.

Now that I’m down 28 pounds I’ve begun to regain movement that I incorrectly attributed loss to aging and past sports injuries. Osteoarthritis is still present in a few badly injured joints but the effects and symptoms have subsided to the point I no longer take 600mg of Ibuprofen to get through the day. I didn’t see that coming.

Due to our current Presidential election period, we have been hearing the term “rigged” a lot of late. There is a belief that the ‘system’ is rigged to the benefit of one candidate or the other. Well, with regard to food, the system is rigged and I didn’t see that coming either.

Due to the abundance of everything in America, we are afforded many luxuries. One such is the ability to reward ourselves with eating. Weddings, graduations, funerals, anniversaries, first dates, last dates, and retirements – you get the picture. As a result, food becomes synonymous with reward, and who doesn’t like to be rewarded? I’ve come to realize it isn’t the food, per se; rather, it is the feelings food brings to our emotional table. Food fires on all emotional receptors: visual, smell, taste, and touch. Memories are formed in our brain that can be easily triggered simply by smell.

My mom passed away in 1994 at an age that came too soon for me. After her passing I poured myself back into a great career working for large International Corporation. Just a few weeks after mom’s passing, I traveled on business to Oklahoma City. I stayed at a hotel that shared the parking lot of one of my favorite southern restaurants called, Cracker Barrel.

My favorite Cracker Barrel meal is their meat-loaf dinner with mashed potatoes, gravy and green beans, so I was glad to sit and order this meal at the end of a very busy day.

If you’ve never been to a Cracker Barrel, it is a throw back to Southern charm and manners. The wait-staff address guests with ma’am and sir and seem ready to answer with a “bless your heart” at every turn.

My server placed my magnificently plated entrée in front of me, and mercy, it was a sight to behold. It was perfectly pleasing in every way possible. I thanked my server and dug my fork into my mashed potatoes, lifted to fork to mouth, placed the serving in my mouth, and as soon as it touched my tongue, I began to sob uncontrollably, inconsolably actually – not that my server, who dutifully came right over to ask if something was wrong with my meal, didn’t try her best.

You see, growing up, my mom always made mashed potatoes that were a little chunky and, as fortune would have it, so did the chef at this particular Cracker Barrel restaurant. All of those memories of mom came unexpectedly rushing back from the crevasse of my mind where I partitioned the grief of her recent loss. With one fork of mashed potatoes I was instantly transported to a better time and place – one where mom was still able to receive my phone calls and visits. Food can do that, and that’s where I went off the rails of healthy living.

I am glad that I can put this segment of my journey down on paper so I can say: I finally get ‘it’. Now, it’s all about executing my program to attain my desired level of health irrespective of what I weigh. Sure, I have a goal weight in mind; however, I don’t want to limit myself and want to see just how far I can go.

I wish you success on wherever your journey leads to healthy living.

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