On Fetishizing Food

by Pamela on February 1, 2013

The counselor working with our weight-loss group recently told a story of a woman who, though she was eating only the diet shakes, made every meal and snack an event. She thought ahead about how she would spice it up, with sugar-free flavorings or coffee or the like. This wasn’t a successful pattern of thinking, the counselor recounted, because it elevated food to a high level of importance, when dieters were more successful when they began to think about food as fuel, rather than as a “treat” or “reward” or “special” thing.

This really resonated with me, and highlights a change I likely need to make. When my husband and I were dating, and all through our marriage, the most common thing we did together — especially to celebrate special events like birthdays — is go out to eat. We visited fancy restaurants like Gramercy Tavern, Craft, and even Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant in Manhattan, where — for my 40th birthday — we had a 7 course tasting menu with wine pairings. On our honeymoon, we already had dinner reservations for various places made months before.

Even now, when I visualize a “date night,” it involves going out for sushi and sake, or trying a new restaurant I’ve heard good things about. (No wonder I’ve gained weight since getting married!)

This fetishizing of food permeates our culture (It’s not just me!). How many times have you seen a friend take a camera phone photo of their meal — either at a restaurant or something they made themselves — and post it to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. “Mmmm, bacon…” is the title of a Pinterest board and such a common comment on social media that it’s not surprising that there are so many Twitter results when you search for the #mmmbacon hashtag. And “mmmbacon” isn’t even a real word!


My biggest hobbies — the ones I indulge in most often, anyway — also involve food. I love trying new recipes, especially to keep me from getting bored when I have to cook for the family, anyway. When something turns out well, I please myself and am sure to get praise from my husband. I love sourcing unusual ingredients, which is why I have lamb heart and liver in my freezer. Additionally, I’m getting into gardening. I have a raised bed that I’m dying to get some soil into, so I can plant some tomatoes and zucchini. (Is it still fetishistic if the ingredients are healthy?)

We’re constantly bombarded with imagery and thinking that equate food with celebration, relaxation (remember “You Deserve A Break Today?”), reward and comfort that it’s not surprising that the first thing people want to do to celebrate weight loss is go out to eat!

With this in mind, I’ve been trying to think of ways to reward myself, and have fun with my husband, that don’t involve food. This weekend, hubby and I will head to the movie theater — and no popcorn for me! Someone in our group suggested bowling or going on a walk. Maybe hitting a live music venue or going to a play? As for ways to reward myself for losing weight, what about a new dress? But, on a daily basis, there’s a nice warm cup of chamomile tea. And for small rewards (like every 5 lbs) perhaps I’ll get a new lipstick.

Obviously, I’m still thinking this out and would welcome ideas. Even if I don’t give up food fetishism entirely, I really think I’ll be more successful in keeping weight off if I incorporate a wider range of activity possibilities into my life.

One friend of mine and I always meet for exercise, either catching up from adjacent treadmills at the gym, or from a walking/jogging path — that’s a healthy habit I need to continue. We try to do a family bike ride or walk as often as we can, and, of course, that’s good. I’m thinking of signing up myself and the kids for a running or obstacle course race in the next few months to have a fun activity and to motivate myself to get into better shape.

It’s a process…

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