Are you coping with food neutrality?
Nowadays, people are involved in many activities throughout the day – with work, school, sports, and other endeavors. Many times people get into a routine with their activities and put food on the sideline. They become what I call Food Neutral. They eat to survive – and that’s about it. Many times people gravitate to prepared foods, fast food, or other types of convenience foods. This is all in an effort to get to their next event or activity.
When you become food neutral, food takes a back seat in your life. You are directly and indirectly stating that food is not important to you. Food becomes more of a necessity than a focal point. With food neutrality, food is a low priority. Everything else seems to be more important than eating. People tend to fit it in when they can. Essentially, they take for granted any health that they do have.
Consider a large family, for example. Like most parents, they may struggle to keep up with helping children in their schooling and activities, while at the same time juggling their own career, household, and community responsibilities. They often stop at fast food restaurants on their way to or from activities – sometimes doing that as a reward for their children’s good behavior or for doing chores. They often buy prepared foods or foods that are already sliced, diced, chopped, and ready for cooking. If it cannot be accomplished in 30 minutes of less, they don’t want to do it.
Consider empty nesters. Now that the kids are grown up and out of the house, they may not want to have anything to do with food. They may become minimalists. A lot of convenience foods may fill their refrigerator and their stomachs.
Consider a couple with no children. They may be busy with their careers. When they do eat things besides snack foods, they likely have several local restaurants that they frequent on a semi-regular basis.
All of these situations may be considered food neutral to an extent. These are purposely extreme examples to demonstrate the level to which people often ignore food or minimize it in favor of their career, schooling, or other activities.
Food neutrality is not beneficial for several reasons:
You may be saving time getting that frozen lasagna or those cut up vegetables for your next meal, but you likely are spending more for those products than if you were to make a homemade meal. That may (literally) cut into your food budget. It may also cost you valuable bonding experiences with family or friends.
It robs you of learning opportunities.
Many times people say they do not cook because they don’t know how – that they don’t have access to those learning opportunities. When in fact, they do have access to the necessary resources to learn to cook, they just don’t choose to partake of those resources. They remain in their ignorance, so to speak. They feel that other things are more important.
However, you may receive great health benefits as you learn how to cook different ways, how to use different ingredients, how to read a food label, or how to understand caloric intake requirements. You can eat healthier. You have the energy to do more and to do well in work, school, or other activities.
Food is a gateway for life.
It robs you of teaching opportunities.
The best way to learn something is to teach it to others. As you learn and teach – family members, friends, associates, etc., you are sharing that information and knowledge. You are touting the benefits of the food topic. Those teaching moments benefit others in receiving that information, and you in understanding that topic better.
Taking care of your body should be a top priority in your life. This is true regardless of your life circumstances. If you are not healthy, you are not able to care for yourself or those around you. You will not be able to do well in work, school, or other activities.
Food neutrality is analogous to buying a car and never doing anything to maintain it. If you don’t fill up the gas tank, replace the fluids, change the oil, and perform other maintenance on the car from time to time, you won’t get very far and you won’t be able to do the things you want to.
As EmRee Pugmire, a marriage and family therapist focusing on eating disorders, stated,
“Food is fuel. You cannot live without food. Food does not need to be the main focus of your life, but it can bring you some joy and happiness.”
3 Steps to Overcoming Food Neutrality
So how do you overcome food neutrality?
Understand the value of your body and the food you put into it.
The way to begin overcoming food neutrality is to change your attitude about your body. You should cherish your body more than you cherish other things. Understand the value of your body. Understand that food is fuel for the body. As you change your food attitude, then food becomes valuable. In the car analogy, fuel is very valuable to your vehicle, but if you don’t value your vehicle, chances are you will not give your vehicle what it needs to operate. Similarly, if you value your body, you will value what you put into your body and how you take care of it.
Analyze your current food habits and how you feel as a result.
Look at what your current habits are. You can’t change anything until you know what you are currently doing. Then you can focus in on different aspects of the food experience: building your knowledge of ingredients and cooking techniques, taking advantage of the social influences to make wise food choices, interacting with the food, and creating an environment conducive to having positive food experiences. Start with one thing at a time. Don’t try to eat the whole elephant at once.
Set realistic and manageable goals.
Look at the areas you CAN change, and then focus on just one of them. As you achieve that goal, move on to other goals. Throughout the process, evaluate not only your progress with achieving a goal, but how you feel as a result. Look at what you have been changing and see how doing so has helped you.
Seeing the Fruits of Your Labors
This process comes full circle as you see the value and results of your efforts. You come to value your body. You may have more energy. You may feel better. Perhaps you are eating better food. As you start seeing results, you understand the value of your body and the food that goes into it even more. You may have more enthusiasm and vigor toward making those changes in your life.
Beware! That enthusiasm is contagious! You can then share your experiences with a friend or family member. Perhaps they themselves are noticing something different about you. They may exclaim, “Wow, you really seem a lot happier lately!” or “You seem to have more energy over these last few weeks!” As you discuss your food experiences with others, they can also provide feedback that may help you even more. When you have something that has worked for you, you naturally want to share that with others.
You can change your food attitude by understanding the value of the body you have. Once you understand that, you can prioritize food appropriately in order to live life to the fullest!
FOOD FOR THOUGHT: What are some ways you can overcome food neutrality and create a positive food experience?