In the course of our discussions from people of all walks of life, we hear a lot about being in survival mode. For discussion purposes, survival mode is a condition of having to endure an unpleasant situation for a period of time. From a food experience perspective, survival mode means essentially putting food on the back burner in order to deal with an unpleasant, but seemingly necessary, situation.
Survival mode can include many things, such as the following:
· Raising children
· Struggling with food allergies
· Battling an illness
· Working long hours
· Completing school or training
The list could go on and on. When we ask them about their day-to-day experiences with food, the statement, “We’re in survival mode right now” is an all too frequent response. For them, being in survival mode is almost a right of passage. People often feel that they just have to deal with whatever situation they are in right now, and they will focus on food some other time. Food is not a priority in their lives. They don’t believe they can have a positive food experience given their “situation”. They do the minimum they need to in order to get by, or they stop trying altogether.
Don’t get us wrong. Those with whom we have spoken don’t typically want to be in survival mode. But somehow they feel like they have to be in order to get through whatever obstacle in which they are currently engaged. At the same time, though, they do not have the motivation to change. They don’t feel they can have positive food experiences even though they are in survival mode.
Why do people feel like they have to be in survival mode?
Many times it is because they don’t have the knowledge or resources to create their own positive food experiences. For example, perhaps they are not familiar with meal planning, or how to shop for healthy ingredients at a grocery store. Maybe they don’t understand what their food options are. Perhaps they have very limited cooking skills. If the situation is food allergies, it is very easy to feel constrained – especially with multiple food situations within a family. Trying to prepare meals that people can eat is an ongoing challenge.
At other times, it may be that people are knowledgeable to a degree, but the willingness to engage in culinary activities it not present. For example, some have the misconception that meal planning is too restrictive; they don’t want to be limited to having a certain meal on a certain day. Well, the good news is that you don’t have to. That’s not what meal planning is.
Meal planning gives you the knowledge and resources you need to prepare meals so you are not scrambling to put a meal together at the last minute. You have the flexibility to serve those meals anytime during the week. In my own family, for example, I cook 3-4 days of the week, and we eat leftovers the rest of the time. I select the meals and buy the groceries I need for the week. When I cook, however, is entirely based on our schedules.
You can create a positive food experience regardless of your circumstances.
How does survival mode thwart your efforts to create positive food experiences?
Survival mode brings a sense of desperation. It brings a sense of not wanting to deal with a situation, but feeling like you have no choice but to put all your energies into that situation. Food is no longer a priority. Food takes a back seat to other aspects of life. Turning away from food brings a feeling of apathy toward cooking and toward food in general. You no longer put an effort into food, cooking, nutrition, etc. Your survival mode becomes the main event, and you develop apathy toward other things.
Yet food, nutrition, and health are what sustain you during different situations in your life. They should to be the main event.
Food has a domino effect: if you pay attention to food in making healthy food choices, using fresh ingredients, building your cooking skills, and developing your interaction with food and people, those things affect other aspects of your life. You have more energy to do the things you love. Perhaps you become sick less often. You become more resistant to long-term illnesses. Perhaps you become knowledgeable about food and cooking. You can then teach and help others to do the same.
Food is a catalyst for life success!
5 Secrets to overcoming survival mode and creating a positive food experience
Creating positive food experiences brings a sense of discovery, success, and achievement. It builds your affirmation that creating positive food experiences works in your life. It can help you overcome survival mode.
1. Meet people where they are.
The phrase positive food experience means different things to different people:
· To people with food allergies, for example, a positive food experience may mean being able to finally eat something without getting sick.
· For a picky eater, a positive food experience may mean being pleasantly surprised when they actually enjoy a food they have disliked for many years, or when they eat a food they are already are familiar with.
· To someone with a demanding work schedule, a positive food experience may mean discovering a quick and healthy lunch recipe that gives them the energy they need to get through the day.
When you understand the situation that leads to survival mode, you can more effectively “speak their language” in terms of positive food experiences.
2. Find commonalities.
Within a family of any size, there are likely many different situations. Whether it be work, school, food allergies, picky eaters, or various alternative diets (vegan, vegetarian, Atkins, Keto, etc.). It’s difficult to accommodate those various situations. Perhaps there are some common foods that everyone likes. Find those and put new twists on them.
3. Become good at doing food research.
Now is the time to embrace food research. Take it head on. You can then use that information to make healthy food choices. Look at your situation and learn what is going to give you the most bang for the buck in terms of nutrition. You don’t have to spend hours on end, just take it a little at a time.
If you have a food allergy, then learn about that allergy and what foods you can eat. Several of my friends have celiac, for example, so I understand the constant struggle they have with food. Discovering gluten free foods becomes a real benefit to the quality of foods you can eat.
There are many websites dedicated to gluten free cooking, such as Gluten Free on a Shoestring, where they make gluten free cooking enjoyable and affordable. The Adventures of Anti-Wheat Girl has a balance of recipes, restaurant reviews, and plenty of information to guide those with celiac toward healthier eating.
4. Enlist the help of those who are part of the situation.
Enlist their help to discover new foods and new ways of cooking. People tends to be the dominant principle in survival mode situations. When you enlist their help, all of you can work together to gain control over the situation and put food first.
5. Celebrate little victories, and let them motivate you toward more positive food experiences.
Did you finally find a recipe that everybody likes and can eat? Have you discovered new ingredients or a new way of preparing food that satisfies picky eaters and is made with the ingredients people love? Are you involving people more often in the cooking process? Whatever is working, seek to understand it. Document it. Here are some questions to prompt your thoughts on the experience:
· What ingredients did you use?
· How was the dish prepared?
· What people were involved in the process?
· How did you satisfy the unique eating situations of each family member?
· What was the environment like when that particular meal worked?
· How did you interact with the food?
· What were the reactions to this food experience (you and others with whom you ate)?
It is important to understand not only what works, but why it works, and under what circumstances it works. Write that information down so you can replicate it later. That’s not to say you need to serve the same foods over and over again, but understanding what principles you can learn from that experience may open up new possibilities for eating.
Survival mode is a choice.
Implementing these steps can help you “step out” of survival mode and place food at the forefront of your life. As you pay attention to food and eat healthier, you have the energy and endurance to tackle the situation at hand.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Are you caught in survival mode? What steps have you taken to overcome or resolve the situation? Are there other ways not listed here? Let us know via the Contact Us form, in the comments below, or on social media!