Eating Our Roles

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A torso of a woman standing on a rail guard and an image of Emily Rosen

Many of us eat on automatic pilot, not really knowing why we eat the foods we’re choosing. Some of us are clear that we want to eat more healthfully, or let go of overeating, yet we can’t do the very thing that we say we want to do – and we have no idea why. It’s time for a deeper dive into the psychology of the eater!

In this fascinating video from IPEtv, Emily Rosen, Director of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating delivers some great insights into what drives us to eat the way that we do. She reveals how at different times in life we are playing out different roles – and these roles greatly impact our food choices. We think you’ll learn some helpful insights into your on relationship with food!

Here is a transcript of this week’s video:

Hi, I’m Emily Rosen, Director of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating.

Today’s Topic: Eating Our Roles

And I don’t mean the kind of rolls you eat – I’m talking about the roles we play in life.

Perhaps the most important element at any meal is the role we play and the lessons that role teaches us. At any given time in life, we act out a particular part or personality. We may be in a rebellious mode, conservative mode, a good girl phase, a wandering period, a health-conscious stage, or a crisis time, for example. Each part we play stays with us for a while, teaches us important lessons, then changes to whatever is next.

And each role is associated with a particular way of eating.

Teenagers, for instance, often play a rebellious role – they constantly challenge old values and explore new ones. They tend to act with regard to immediate gratification rather than future consequences. Telling most teenagers what to eat is often ineffective. They’ll choose whatever is most pleasurable and exciting, with little thought about its impact on their long-term health. The teenager’s diet is simply a reflection of their state of consciousness and development – they don’t want rules, they just want options.

Many people who follow any kind of strict diet are also going through a phase of great discipline. They might choose to avoid all meat, or eliminate gluten, or let go of all sugar, or eat only organic food, or any kind of highly systematized or regimented diet. Not only can such approaches lead to positive and powerful changes in health and weight, but we also learn something about ourselves, and about life. We learn structure. We learn to make great effort. We learn to value every act of nourishment.

The way we choose to eat is simply a reflection of the way we choose to see life.

One woman I know had dreamed for many years of traveling the world but was afraid because her diet was so strict and would be impossible to maintain while traveling overseas. She felt as though she could not leave her hometown to fulfill her life’s fantasy because her diet was limiting her. In truth, it was only her thinking about her diet that was the limiting factor. She identified so strongly with her eating pattern that she felt obligated to conform to her diet rather than have the diet conform to her needs.

Eventually her dietary rules softened and the year-long trip around the world proved to be a wonderful opening in her life. She played the role of a traveler in many lands, opening up to new ideas and people, while sampling new ways of eating she hadn’t thought possible for herself. It was no coincidence that her outward journey finally took place when her inner journey with diet deepened.

Many of us also go through times in life where we don’t really care, we are not so inspired, we might even be a little depressed, and we don’t see the point to it all. At such times, it’s often easier for us to not care about how we nourish the body. We might find ourselves reaching for foods that we know don’t support our health, but deep inside, healthy living is no longer a priority. It makes perfect sense that the food we reach for is a direct reflection of the role we’re playing in life at such a time – a role of apathy, questioning, and pulling back from self care.

Sometimes, we simply need to go to such a phase.

So, consider the life you are living in right now. Are you super focused on work? Is your emphasis on parenting? Are you devoting all kinds of time to training for running marathons? Is it a time when you’re all about health? Is it a time where you just want to be a free spirit and be whoever you want?

Chances are, whoever you are being at this time in your life has a diet that matches it perfectly.

Every diet we follow is a reflection of the role we are playing. We are never limited to a particular role or to the diet that accompanies it. The food we eat changes as we change.

And by playing out each role wholeheartedly, while knowing somewhere inside that we are only acting out a part, we gracefully move from one phase of life to the next and gain a rare mastery seldom seen with eating.

I hope this was helpful! In the comments below, please let us know your thoughts. We love hearing from you and we read and respond to every comment!

A torso of a woman standing on a rail guard and an image of Emily Rosen

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