There is nothing inherently wrong with using food as entertainment. We all do it to some degree or another. If you have had something to eat when you were not actually hungry, then you have used food to "entertain" some other need. That need could be to feel comforted, to relax, to feel connected to others, or to not be bored.
We intuitively know that food is a source of energy. From the beginning of our lives, we have sought out an energy source to fuel our bodies and brains. Then, somewhere along the way, we began to understand that food could be used to entertain other needs. (If you want to see this first hand, search the internet for "children tasting sugar for the first time!")
It is no wonder we use food as entertainment. Food is deeply woven into our culture. We celebrate with food at weddings, anniversaries, birthdays and even for making it to the end of the day! We also gather around food in difficult times as we mourn the loss of a loved one or comfort a friend. Communication, connection and big deals in business happen around food. This is such a part of our culture, that we barely notice it, let alone question it. It isn’t surprising that this is the case. We have evolved this way. Or brains are literally hard wired to seek both food and social connection for survival. These natural instincts have kept us alive and thriving as a species. We banned together, created tribes and hunted and gathered together. That was, and still is, a good thing.
The challenge now is that along with our natural instincts, we also have almost unlimited accessibility to food. We are also inundated with images of tantalizing food ad messages about deserving a break and using food to get it. We have channels dedicated to the preparation, judging and consumption of food! The combination of our inherent need to survive along with the unlimited access and messaging around food, makes it very, very easy to see and use food not just for survival, but for entertainment.
If you are trying to lose weight or clean up your diet for health reasons, one of the most important questions you can ask is, “Am I using food for fuel or for entertainment?” If you have had trouble losing weight, binge eat, or can’t resist a sweet treat even when you want to, you are using food to “entertain.”
The first step to ending this cycle is to just be aware that you are doing it. I’ve heard people say that they just find themselves at the drive-in window or with a second donut in their hand before they realized what they are doing. The second step is to figure out why you are eating this way. Notice what is going on when you are eating. Where are you? What are thinking? Feeling? Who is with you? Perhaps you are tired, bored, stressed, in a rut, angry at someone, maybe even angry at yourself. Just notice. Doing this gives you insight to what is really going on. When you know what is happening, then you have the power to change it.
And, that is the final step. Figure out how else you might “entertain” that need. Maybe you could take a quick nap, or call a good friend. Perhaps a brisk walk is the thing you really are craving. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. Mostly, because people don’t want to feel the feeling or experience the experience. That’s why they are entertaining in the first place.
Food is one of the great pleasures of being alive. I want you to enjoy eating and be present to the taste, aroma and experience of eating. But more than that, I want you to create a life that is so amazing that you don’t have to entertain yourself with food. I want you to use food to fuel your body and mind so that you can experience life in a stronger, grander way that is so much more entertaining than any food could ever be.