The Food Obsession – an appetite for destruction

December 4th, 2017





”I use food for the same reason an addict uses drugs: to comfort, to soothe, to ease stress.”  – Oprah Winfery



The ‘new’ food craze-iness


The world appears to be surfing one of the many waves of mass distraction that arise every now and then. In this case it is one that never really goes away but just resurfaces in new clothes: the food craze.


Food and cooking shows, books and magazine articles abound; top chefs have become celebrities; new diet crazes become rapidly popular only to replaced and contradicted by newer ones espousing directly opposite theories; there are cooking competition shows whose formats have been franchised across the globe.




Throughout all of this, obesity and its many related diseases have risen drastically in the developed world and is even on the rise elsewhere. Contrastingly, anorexic archetypes have plagued the media, setting impossible standards and warped body imaging.




Obsession with food and dieting is nothing new of course. In 1863 William Banting first published his ‘Letter on Corpulence’ espousing a weight loss diet. So influential was it that to ‘banta’ (diet) even entered the Swedish language and is used to this day. Fast forward to the modern day and the food and diet market is flooded with new titles every week.





Maternal love and our oral beginnings


In traditional Chinese medicine, the Earth element is said to rule the digestive system, governing the stomach and spleen/pancreas (for more on this click here). Besides breathing and the elimination of waste, the only natural ability a human baby has is to suck. It takes in mother’s milk via her stomach meridian (passing through the nipples) and into the baby’s stomach.


Breast feeding not only ensures the survival of her child but stimulates oxytoxin production to enable bonding.  The association of food with love is something that can profoundly affect us throughout our whole life.




Food and love: reward and punishment


Our relationship with food can mirror our relationship with ourself, in particular self worth. In turn, our sense of self worth is profoundly linked with love – how we have experienced it and, as a result, how we receive and give it to ourself and others.


Abandonment, separation or abuse from our mother in particular, whether it be due to physical or emotional reasons (such as post natal depression, illness, addiction, death, adoption, or other reasons) profoundly influence how we view our own self worth and even our right to exist.
Addiction to or fear of oral intake are often the result of such a negatively affected view of the Self. Examples of this can be alcohol and drug addiction, anorexia, binging and purging, morbid obesity and uncontrollable eating habits, fear of food, difficulty swallowing and so on. All are linked with an ongoing crisis of identity, self worth and self esteem linked to our oral triggers.




Self esteem goes deeper than how we value ourselves. It is bedrock of our sense of existing at all. It cannot be overstated how much of our sense of Self goes back to this early bonding with our earthly mother. We are not only nourished through feeding and touch. We are confirmed as an individual.


The existential question “Who am I?” has its earthly roots in this relationship. The comic strip character Charlie Brown, even after another trying day of failure or frustration, could still utter the phrase “At least my mother loves me.” Unfortuantely, not everyone can say that and so look for mother-love elsewhere. One of the main outlets is oral fixation.




Food and identity



”You are what you eat.” is the commonly accepted wisdom. While it is true that much of what we consume becomes part of our physical body, it can also reflect the relationship we have with ourself.


Food can reward us: ”Only good boys and girls who behave get to have desert.” Food can be used to punish us too. Obsessive binge eating followed by violent purging or extreme diet regimes only reinforce a negative self image and separate us from ourselves.





Perhaps the most famous example of this was the case of two anorexic sisters who took to leaving post-it notes to themselves in the third person on the fridge door. ”Susan took a carrot today. Who does she think she is?”


Our Earth element is meant to be our stable, neutral centre of ourself. When it becomes imbalanced we become anxious and look outseide of ourselves for a sense of identity.


This makes us particularly susceptibe to manipulation by others. In fact, the whole ’consumer society’ is built upon encouraging this feeling of anxiety that something about us is incomplete – and then offering their purchasable solutions. Unfortunately they may only add to our inner anxiety by telling us ’facts’ that we instinctively know are not true.




Is it not strange that in some of the most abundant countries in the world we are constantly being urged to question whether we are lacking something in our diet when the truth is we consume more than we need? The reality is we can exist quite well for periods of time without food at all.


Many spiritual traditions use fasting as a way to leave our earthly, head-down, grazing habits for a while in order to heighten spiritual experience. Apart from the feeling of lightness and heightened awareness an unencumbered system gives us, simply freeing up all the time normally spent planning, shopping, preparing, consuming and cleaning up after food may surprise us.


Fasting disconnects our fixation with food and earthly things for a while and makes it easier to perceive subtle shifts in consciousness.



‘Eating for energy’


While it is true that the burning of calories gives us energy, the consumption of them will initially require energy. Unless we are only drinking a sugar-water mix of some kind, taking in food will take some of our energy.


Outside of strenuous activity, the digestive process takes a great deal of our available energy long before it makes energy available to us. The christmas season is upon us. Do you remember feeling energetic after a large christmas dinner? After all, you had just consumed all that energy giving food. No?


That’s because our body is consuming vast amounts of energy just to process all that sludge through our overloaded system. To add insult to injury, much of that ’energy’ will be stored as fat as we sleep it off on a nearby couch.


Food and consciousness


Food is by no means our only source of energy. There are many more subtle forms available to us: Sunshine, light, oxygen, love, nature, inspiration, touch, happiness and joy to name a few. Unfortunately, all too often, food and drink are used as a substitute for these.


A heavy mind and body lacking in energy, joy or inspiration is the result. Food in not love. Love is love. If we have a problem in how we feed ourselves it might be a better investment of our time to investigate how truly loving we are to ourselves.
Love in all its forms – warmth, creative expression, sex, caring, empathy, touch, joy, connection and community beyond ourselves, light and colour, peace and contentment – feed and nourish us in ways food never can or will.


To be our true Self, we have to transcend ourself. We need to go beyond our own dramas; tradgedies and comedies and connect to something greater.
If we nurture these qualities in our life we may find our food obsessions fall away back to the earth and we are free to fly, unfettered by the heaviness of its gravity.




Till another Monday is not heavy all,



© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own unless otherwise indicated or if the original source is unknown at the time of writing. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation:

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