When you think of the purpose of food, what comes to mind? Is it a source of comfort, something to keep you occupied, a distraction from things you’d rather not do, a way to have fun or find pleasure, fuel for your body, something else?
For a long time I might have picked many of those answers, but I’m not sure I would have considered it fuel. And yet, at its most fundamental level, that’s what it is. But is it only that?
I remember when I first started working at my company, one of my co-workers said her husband viewed food strictly as fuel. He really didn’t understand eating for reasons other than hunger, and even then, he ate pretty plainly because he didn’t see any point in making it more involved.
At first I was baffled. People like this existed? In my food-focused family, this was unheard of. Then my confusion gave way to something like sadness. At the time, my own relationship with food was quite disordered, but even though eating could often make me feel ashamed and guilty, I did also enjoy many of the flavors – especially sweet ones.
I wanted to shed the guilt, but I didn’t want to throw out the baby with the bath water, as it were, and not enjoy food for its own sake.
What got me thinking about this again was a video my sister-in-law posted recently on Facebook. We had a snowy day, so my two nephews (ages 12 and 3) entertained themselves by setting up a few chairs as a “train” and pretending to ride in it. Except the younger one said they had to stop because they were out of gas. The older one got out and obliged by using what looked like apple juice to “fill” the imaginary gas tank. (Later my younger nephew repeated this with some other beverage.)
It made me laugh, but it also reminded me that while food is fuel, it is also fun – and the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. And it reminded me to be grateful that instead of approaching my own choice of fuel with guilt and shame, I can instead view it (most of the time) with the same type of enjoyment and lightheartedness as my nephews.