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Food Is Not Love

Note: Last fall when I went to see Alton Brown perform, he shared five things that he felt confident saying about food. It got me thinking about what I might say about food, and I came up with my own list, although it’s quite different than his. This is one of my items.

Have you ever heard people talk about food as if it were the same thing as love? Or maybe not the exact same thing, but a good substitute? This seems to be a common association, especially if we often gather with loved ones for meals, or let food do the talking for us when it comes to our emotions. But after many years of struggling with my relationship to food, I’ve come to a different conclusion.

Food is not love.

During times when I felt rejected because of my weight, eating gave me some pleasure, but it did not change the rejection (or my perception of it). If anything, eating made things worse, because the food added to my weight, which made me feel worse about myself, and even more convinced that others would automatically hate me.

What I have also learned, though, is that when love is real and present, sharing food can be a wonderful way to come together and deepen connections.

I thought about this a lot yesterday when having any early Easter meal with my family. (My sister-in-law works on Sundays, so getting together the day before made more sense.) It had been a difficult week for a variety of reasons, and it was so wonderful to be able to to see and support each other in person, not just call and exchange e-mails.

Each of us had brought something to contribute to the meal, and as we sat down to eat, our plates full of food made with love, I felt deep gratitude. It may seem like such a simple thing, to share a peaceful and delicious meal with those you love, and yet it isn’t. It is sometimes too easy to focus on more negative emotions and have harmful family dynamics flare up, making even the most delicious food taste bitter. I remember this all too well from some difficult childhood Easters.

Which is why that act of sharing a meal in harmony becomes so powerful. The food tastes that much better, and I can truly savor it, appreciating the care and thought that went into making it.

So while food may not be love, it becomes one more thread in the web of love connecting and sustaining us, and I hope to have many other such meals.

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