How do you conquer the biggest hurdle to a positive food experience? You don’t need to be a professional chef (on the Food Network or anywhere else) to have positive food experiences. As you make some needed changes in your life and in your schedule, food will take its rightful, priority place in your life. Using food in the right ways allows food to be a springboard to success in other aspects of your life.
Angie: Overcoming the Odds
Angie (name has been changed) had a hard life growing up. She grew up in poverty. Angie’s dad was not around. Her mom raised Angie and her two siblings. Her mom worked two jobs just to put food on the table. Often Angie’s food came from a convenience store or other easy access grocery establishment. The food was very simple, such as canned tuna or ham sandwiches. The food was often packaged and processed. It was something to get by with until the next paycheck or the next opportunity.
The Early Days
Angie’s mom did her best to put food on the table. She did not have the time or the inclination (according to Angie) to investigate different food choices. She felt that her circumstances limited her in terms of food purchases and time for meal preparation and research. Angie’s mom was gone a lot due to work responsibilities. Angie and her siblings often had sitters to watch them while Angie’s mom worked. At mealtime, the sitters just pulled food out of the freezer for them.
Thankfully, Angie was smart. She was able to obtain a college education and change some of her circumstances. At first, her food background and experiences limited her. As the norm, she turned to those processed foods because that’s all she knew. As she progressed through college and made more friends and met work associates, she was able to learn new information about food, nutrition, and attitudes toward food.
Conquering the Hurdle One Step at a Time
When I first met Angie, she was trying to apply that new information to her situation. Angie decided to try different foods. She spent time with friends who cooked, watched cooking videos online, and experimented with a variety of recipes and ingredients.
Friendships can become a strong motivator toward creating positive food experiences.
Angie and her friends tried new foods and exchanged different food ideas. They created an environment based on what ingredients they had or their location at mealtimes. They formed different goals to try various ingredients and learn new cooking techniques.
Now Angie feels that she has positive food experiences. Are they every day? Usually not. Sometimes her day is hurried. But more often than not, she creates those positive food experiences – whether she is by herself, with friends, or with family. Angie was able to turn her food circumstances around to her benefit and to the benefit of those around her.
Stacy: Work or Food
A more work related example of the need to make the connection between food and life is Stacy (name has been changed).
The Early Days
Stacy was a self-proclaimed workaholic. Both she and her husband worked close to 80 hours a week in their respective jobs. This includes much work-related travel. Her “home” was a variety of hotel rooms, and her “dinner table” consisted of restaurants intent on feeding the masses, and catered business meetings that focused on the bottom line. On the nights she was home, dinner tended to be takeout from a local restaurant. She viewed meals as something to get you through the next activity. Food just became part of the background of her life as she tried to balance her home and work responsibilities.
Cooking together, or cooking in general, was almost unheard of in her family, as prepared food became the norm. This chaotic situation came to a breaking point as Stacy suffered from various health issues. She had put on some weight since she first started her job. She was also diagnosed with high blood pressure. Her doctor recommended she make some changes to her diet.
Turning Toward Positive Food Experiences
At first she didn’t change much. But when she found herself complaining to a restaurant manager about why they couldn’t make a low sodium dish to suit her needs, she new something had to give. At that point she thought, “Why am I relying on others for my meals? Maybe I could try to make them myself?”
Stacy considered the activities involved in her day, and what it would take to make time for cooking, nutrition, and food research. She spoke with her husband about it, and he was surprisingly supportive of the idea. They both agreed to make some changes.
Their work schedules were still pretty busy, but small adjustments helped them considerably to focus on food. Stacy and her husband took cooking classes together from time to time. They cooked a meal together at home a few times a month. They researched ingredients. Stacy subscribed to some recipe websites. Stacy learned what foods helped to control blood pressure, and what foods provided the energy she needed without the high calories she didn’t need. Even when Stacy traveled for work, she made an effort to put together some of her own meals and snacks depending on her schedule.
As Stacy made these changes, she gained new respect for food. Mealtime went from a passive annoyance to active participation. She was more open to trying new foods. Food became a memorable experience, whether she was home cooking with her husband or on a business trip. She learned the connection among food and life, livelihood, and energy.
The Biggest Hurdle
The above examples illustrate the importance of perspective. Positive food experiences are not a spectator sport. They require active participation from you and those with whom you eat.
The biggest hurdle to creating positive food experiences is understanding where you are in terms of your own experiences and attitudes toward food and how that relates to other aspects of your life.
We often do not realize the affect of our food experience background, the external environment, and the demands on our time and energies each day on our food perceptions. These factors also affect our attitudes regarding food and mealtime. That attitude snowballs into not spending the time you need to make good food choices and building an environment in order to create positive food experiences.
We often look at our situation and wonder how we got into the situation in the first place. It may take some time to figure out how we got to that point, and it will not happen overnight. It is usually a gradual change over time.
The key is understanding where you have come from, where you are now, and creating realistic goals of where you want to be with regard to positive food experiences.
Sometimes we think our past experiences and current situation chain us down to having a certain mentality about food. We feel like we cannot change. The good news is that you can change your food attitudes and habits! You can set realistic goals for each of the six principles of positive food experiences:
· Food: Ingredients and nutritional aspects
· People: Social influence
· Environment: Location, quality, and other external factors
· Knowledge Base: Building your culinary skills
· Interaction: Level of interaction with food
· Motivation: Enthusiasm and goal setting
Each one of these principles plays a role in your attitude toward food and the subsequent food choices we make. The situations of Angie and Stacy are examples of how understanding our selves and our habits help us to make needed changes for the better.
As we look around us, we may feel that we cannot change. But as we learn from our experiences, we can use our background to empower us to make healthier food choices and have more positive food experiences.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: How have you turned around your food experiences? Do you have a story to tell? Share it in the comments below or on social media!