I lived for McDonalds hamburgers (sometimes pronounced ‘hamboogers’ to my big brother’s delight) when I was a tod. Everything about them made me lose my mind; from the commercials they were featured in where Ronald and kids were having so much fun and were so happy with their meals, to the feel of opening their white paper wrapper with brown arches on it. Sometimes I’d just hold the warm bun to my nose and breathe in the sweet, greasy aroma. Bon appétit!
If I wasn’t actually eating a McDonalds hamburger, I was pretending to. I “play ordered” at home. “I’ll have a hambooger, no pickles, no onions.” I birthdayed at McDonalds. I probably would have vacationed there too if it were allowed.
I can’t help but think about how my relationship with food was founded on Happy Meals. Not only did I enjoy the beef disc on buttery bread, but a toy came with each meal. A toy!
I learned that eating=happy fun.
When I grew out of my obsession with Happy Meals I applied that theorem to all eating in general, which is probably how I ended up sick one evening, after overindulging during dinner. The only recognizable thing that came back up were the blueberry Eggo Waffles I ate. I let go my Eggos with force that night and don’t know that I ever brought myself to eat frozen waffles again (lucky for me my waffle palate is more sophisticated these days and I make homemade waffles from scratch on the regular).
I’ve been known to eat second dinner; when first dinner is bland and underwhelming and not enjoyable at all, happy fun must be sought, right?! Is this why I see characters on television eating pints of ice cream after breakups? Because they too seek happy fun?
I learned a new theorem when I worked in the public health realm.
There is a food to mood connection, it’s just not the one we’ve been sold. If we eat processed and packaged edible items, our bodies don’t run as well as if we eat actual food that is full of natural color and nutrients. Contrary to conventional understanding, healthy eating doesn’t have to be bland and boring. Thug Kitchen is proof. Treating food as fuel doesn’t mean we have to adopt a strictly utilitarian relationship with food either; we can still savor the deliciousness of our favorite meal. Enjoyment within the food is fuel framework is focused on mindful eating and being present with our food. Instead of autopilot shovel it in eating, we focus on eating only what our bodies need; we’re not depriving ourselves of happiness by eating less, we’re breaking free from the idea that food is responsible for the joy we feel when share a meal with friends or family—chances are it’s the actual people whose company we enjoy that are giving us all the feels.
I haven’t had a McDonald’s hamburger in more than a decade, and guess what? I’m happier than ever these days.
February posts are all about self-care, and eating healthily is a great place to start. What is your relationship with food and where did it form?
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