What Is Your Favourite Food? Eating Compulsions Unravelled…

What Is Your Favourite Food? Eating Compulsions Unravelled…


Are there certain things you just can’t say no to?

Maybe it’s the shortbread like your Nana used to make or that special pasta recipe. Those foods that mean so much to you they are in a whole different category of “comfort” foods.

It might be that you just really enjoy them when you have them, or it may be that they are so powerful for you that you just can’t stop. If you are slimming or overweight, then this is a problem.

Humans are unique in their ability to create and give meaning to things. Food at its most correct meaning is simply sustenance for the body, a necessity of life, calories, energy, nutrients, the building blocks of cells.

However when combined in certain ways in certain recipes and it can become something completely different.

A cake for a celebration, Mum’s chicken soup to make me better. We can imbue inanimate things with abstract meanings and make the thing stand in for, or even become the meaning.

For example, I go nuts over tea. Herbal tea is fine, but my favourite is plain English breakfast tea with soy milk. No sugar. I drink a few more cups a day than I probably should, and I had never really thought about it, until I did my Meta-Coaching training 2 years ago. One of the techniques allows us to investigate pleasure and how we create pleasure in our lives. I was the demo for a technique, and we analysed the pleasure I got from tea. It was really interesting just how much I got from tea!

At the initial sensory level, I enjoyed everything about it. There was the ritual of making the tea, boiling the jug, the smell of the tea from the jar, the sound of the teapot or spoon against the ceramic cup. The warmth of it in my hands, and on my tongue and in my belly.

Then on the meta-level, (the higher level of meaning and abstraction) I had unconsciously associated a stack of personal meanings and memories to drinking tea. One memory that sticks out is sitting in bed on the weekend with my Mum, Dad and sister, all of us drinking tea in bed together watching the TV. That memory gives me a warm glow. I attach the abstract meanings of “Good times”, “Family”, “Relaxation”, to drinking tea. Whenever my family get together, the first thing we do is put on the jug and make a cup of tea. Sometimes we even call or text ahead, to say “put on the jug, I’ll be there soon.” Tea and Quality Family Time are totally associated and anchored together in my mind.

Do you have foods or drinks that are associated with Fun? Family? Love? What comes to mind?

If you have foods that are associated with a meaning like that, they become much more than just food. And then giving up the food unconsciously becomes the same in your mind as giving up that abstract thing. If Chocolate equals Love in your mind, it’s no wonder you want it all the time and have a hard time giving it up!

The first step to unravelling this is to become aware of the abstract meanings you have attached to your favourite foods. Why are they your favourite? Then, realising that the food is NOT the meaning you give it. That is completely up to you. You initially associated these things unconsciously, now when you are aware of what is happening, you could just as easily make broccoli mean love, or salad mean Quality Time.

Wouldn’t that make healthy eating easier?


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Discover Your Food Pleasure Map

Reflect and write out the answers to these questions.

  • What is the sensory data that you get from the food? (at first no meanings, just your senses.)
  • What to you see when you are preparing and eating it?
  • What do you hear?
  • What do you touch and feel?
  • What do you smell?
  • What do you taste?
  • What does your tongue feel like when you are having it?
  • What does it remind you of?
  • What feelings does it conjure up inside of you?
  • What memories come to mind?
  • How intense are those feelings?
  • What does that mean to you?
  • And what does that mean to you?
  • And that? ( Keep going till you’ve emptied out everything it means.)
  • And what else does it mean to you?
  • What do you get from it?
  • What does it do for you?
  • If you were to symbolically represent the pleasure you get, what would that look like? (eg. a golden ball of light in my tummy)
  • Is it useful to you to have given so much power and meaning to this food?
  • Do you realise that you did this?
  • Would you like for this food to have a little less meaning to you?
  • Would you like to keep the pleasure and lose the compulsion or need to eat the food?
  • Would it be useful to take this compelling good feeling and use it elsewhere?
  • What else in your life would you like to be more pleasurable?
  • Imagine taking that symbolic representation of the pleasure, and spreading it thick over that other thing you want to be more pleasurable. Whether it’s a healthier food or cleaning the house, or even doing you taxes, the thing doesn’t matter. You could even spread that pleasure over two things, or right over the whole rest of your daily life, so everything is brighter and more enjoyable.
  • Imagine that pleasure seeping into the thing so that it is covered in it, steeped in it, filled with it.
  • How does that shift the experience of this new thing? …and your life?
  • Do you like that?
  • And, how does that change the original food with that meaning and abstract pleasure now gone?
  • What is different about your experience of that food now?
  • How does it change?
  • And if you imagine this change as you go out into your tomorrows, what then
  • How does this empower you and help you?
  • Do you like that?
  • Would you like to keep that change?
  • Just go ahead and lock it in in your mind.

If you actively go through those questions writing the answers and making the mental changes, you will notice some pretty incredible changes that are possible with those foods.

Give it a go and write a comment about your results!

Comments (4)

    • Thanks David. Glad you like it! 🙂

  1. Pingback: Sweet Surrender - How to say yes or no to chocolate | My Mind Coach

  2. I had several large ah ha moments going through this exercise. This is something that I’m aware I’ve been doing for a long time but it has been easier to acknowledge what I was doing and going ahead and ignoring it anyway rather than confront it. Breaking down my thoughts and emotional attachments to what I eat and when I eat my ‘comfort foods’ has made a lot of sense. It felt really uncomfortable at first to listen, recognise and physically write down the associations of loss, hurt, abandonment and not feeling good enough with the attachment to the excessive amounts of chocolate, chips and all things ‘junk food’ that have crept into my ‘it’s ok to eat as it’s just food and I’m not ever going to change anyway’ thought processes. My main ah ha moments attached to this exercise include; sharing treats with my ex-partner was just that- a treat for both of us. Something to enjoy, look forward to and savour for that moment. Not something to be eaten every day or even every week. A feeling of closeness, belonging and loved. My excess eating of these ‘treats’ has attempted to recreate those feelings which has since translated to; if I keep eating this I will continue to close myself off from the world, remain numb and won’t associate those feelings of loss and lost love as I keep pushing more and more of that particular food down. It feels like such a cliché but now that I have been able to clearly distinguish the difference between ‘treat’ and complete annihilation through numbness, these foods interestingly no longer seem so tempting. In fact, one of the physical responses I had to this activity was aching teeth from too much sugar and sweetness! This was a great exercise, thank you @Kylie and it will go on my fridge for when I need to remind myself of why I am reaching for the food that will not nourish me in any way.

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