what is food?
What is food? Food is fuel and function, passion and excess -- the essential and the unnecessary. Food is identity and community. Food is personal and political. It is what we take fully into ourselves and what we reject. Food is what we nurture and what we withhold. It is pride and self-loathing. It is medicine and poison. Food is fullness and hunger. It is hope and despair, pleasure and deprivation, thirst and longing and desperation. Food is wholeness and fragmentation. It is all the parts coming together to make one, and the one that it is broken down again. Food is life and death. It is art and destruction. Food is stored energy. It is potential and possibility. It is process and transformation. Food is the perfect mirror. It is always both itself and the person who is eating it. Food is whatever we bring to the table. Food is relationship. An encounter with food is an intimate encounter with the full range and reality of our humanity -- a visceral experience of the overlap between need and choice. And when we see food for what it is, then we see ourselves.
I am beyond grateful and excited to be collaborating in the pioneering and advancement of a new therapeutic approach in the field of psychology -- which I am calling RELATIONAL FOOD PSYCHOLOGY. It is an emerging model which integrates ideas from some of today's most progressive minds in mental health and food psychology, along with key aspects of Relational Gestalt Therapy, to evoke a new conversation around how we as humans navigate our primal and complex relationships with food.
We all encounter challenges with food -- albeit to varying degrees -- just like we all face challenges in relationship. We struggle because we are human. And so, to approach these challenges from any place other than one of compassion and curiosity intended to fully validate and inspire our humanity -- with all its extraordinary possibilities and limitations -- is to deny an important piece of who we are and why we are here.
When we can instead courageously and deliberately -- and with the compassionate support of others -- venture into an honest exploration of our human struggles in relationship to food, we begin more clearly to see the pieces of ourselves that have been scattered and fragmented among the many "shoulds" and pathologizing attitudes of our culture -- the body-shaming, pleasure-hushing, blame-throwing, willpower-preaching, power-looting, stress-inducing, fear-perpetuating ideas we've all internalized to some degree. And by daring to discover these and other contexts more fully, while also coming to know ourselves more authentically, we take steps toward reclaiming our wholeness. Because the more integrated and unbroken we experience ourselves to be, the more agency we have in choosing.
Food is political. Our ability to access healthy foods directly impacts our ability to make healthy choices. And, so far anyway, access is not at all equal. The problem of food deserts and food swamps is a cultural and systemic one, in which socioeconomic factors block or impair access to fresh, nutrient-rich, unprocessed foods. It is a problem that disproportionately affects communities of color, and it cannot and should not be ignored. In a culture where race-based hate and violence already end lives suddenly and prematurely, food injustice is also a killer -- a slow killer, but a killer, nonetheless. Below are some resources for learning more and taking action.
become a food groupie
Mindful Eating Group. Explore food as relationship, build awareness and develop resourcing through mindful eating practice and embodiment-based group process. Together, we will challenge dominant cultural narratives around food, dieting, body image and nutrition.
For more information on how to join the Mindful Eating Group, please contact Angela directly. Please inquire about the group schedule, as current offerings may be different from what appears in the flyer.
For additional information regarding the impacts of food on mental health, please visit my Resources page.
Angela is a Registered Marriage and Family Therapy Intern and Counselor-in-Residence at The Relational Center in Los Angeles, California, where she provides counseling and psychoeducation to adults and adolescents of diverse cultural backgrounds. Sessions by appointment only. Please contact Angela for more information.
[photo] VOLUNTEERING AT THE GROWGOOD GARDEN SITE IN BELL, CA.