Day Three: Food Abuse

Continuing on with my discussion earlier on rewards, obligations, and punishments as motivators, I'd like to explore the use of food in this equation. I read somewhere that, although parents have been using food as a motivational tactic for generations, it actually breeds an early sense of food abuse in the minds of kids. Basically, they are scarred for life thanks to an innocent act by the parents -- putting food on a pedestal.

To be frank, humans are pretty much all addicted to food. Colloquial definition goes that an addiction is something you cannot live without, which has the effects of intense craving after long periods of denial, and which can even change your mental states if you subject yourself to its whims. As far as I know, food has that effect on everyone. Who hasn't ever been hungry, salivated at the sight of a table full of their favorite foods, or craved a certain tasty snack? I'd like to say that, although it is probably somehow factored out of the actual definition of addiction for clarity's sake, that food is an addiction all of us share.

And that just makes it worse, this placing of such a common item onto an undeserving pedestal. Indeed, similar to smokers glorifying the cigarette, by giving food all of these attributes, it heightens it from being a simple source of sustenance to providing a means of happiness, sadness, or anger. It begins to elicit emotions, ties that do not disappear with age. Psychological studies have proven that emotional memories are often the ones that stick longer. They're called lightbulb memories and we all have them -- Michael Jackson's death, the Royal Wedding, 9/11. Often, they come with negative emotions (which happen to be the strongest in most people) and by forcing food into such a category, there's bound to be consequences.

The positive consequences of emotional memories include their "stickiness" and accuracy. By stickiness, I don't mean the physically gross feeling of sappy or syrupy goop, but by the fact that it's hard to erase such memories. They tend to form an insane number of connections in your mind -- connections that cannot be severed in a single swift movement. Additionally, they are accurate because although connections are made and broken each time you recall a memory, the fact that the emotions are so deep and complex help it stick faster and easier. The connections forged don't exactly unforge themselves, which explains why childhood scars are so hard to bury. (Fun Fact: Every time you remember something, you are altering it, and thus forcing your memory farther and farther from the truth. The fewer times a memory is recalled, the more accurate it is. Alternately, the more times a memory is recalled, the more its connections are strengthened. So for maximal memory accuracy....?)

Anyway, placing food on a pedestal can lead to eating disorders in the future. Kids remember how food was viewed as bad, i.e. "Don't eat candy before dinner!" or "Eat your veggies or you'll be spanked!" Or they remember how good food made them feel, i.e. "If you do well on this test, we'll take you out to your favorite restaurant!" Anyway, I just have a firm belief that to minimize the emotional scarring in children, limiting their early childhood "food abuse" might be a good step in the right direction.

Breakfast: Oatmeal and banana
Lunch: Minestrone soup and Caesar salad
Dinner: Turkey wrap and salad
Snacks: Rice and adzuki bean chips, Nutrigrain bar


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