Food & Emotion




The media is using the wrong approach when speaking to us about weight and health. They use rational arguments with a humanity which is intrinsically emotive. We feel as much as we think. These people are appealing to the wrong side of the brain. They should know better. Television programs too often use the obvious angle of health to convince us that the nation weighs too much. Of course it is a correct argument, but they are often appealing to the wrong values. Most of us value our health. But we also value convenience, happiness, and socializing. People cannot prioritize every motive at number one, and eventually health gets pushed down the list as the rest of life takes over.

First of all, let me establish that I am not crazy enough to oppose typical arguments about health. We will suffer the consequences for eating manufactured meals instead of the home-cooked meals which were enjoyed by previous generations. Whereas food in past decades could have came from the veggie patch in the back yard, today's food has an ingredient list to resemble a science experiment. These excesses cannot be good for us because we didn't naturally evolve (or become created, depending on your worldview) for the artificial edibles.

We also know things are more fried than ever before. And we know it's not really good for us. That is another dead-obvious point (emphasis on the word 'dead' because that's what it will do to us). Thank you friendly clown and that guy called Jack who is apparently hungry. You successfully managed to sneak sugary bread and saucy desserts into my life once more. Oh how did that happen? Where did those extra calories come from?

But, there is a very significant 'although' or 'however' stopping us from just allowing that rational argument to improve our decisions. I'm not going to play dietician because I'm not one. The media needs to stop telling us the bloody obvious in the form of rational arguments. Why? Because people aren't rational! The whole world knows that. So many other motives in play. It's all about what our cultural habits or preference are for leisure and happiness.

Plenty of women eat because it feels good. 'Emotional eating' is the label for extreme habitual eating to feel better. These types don't want a slice of cake, they want the whole cake. Or it could be more hidden and incremental - one cookie here, just an extra glass of fizzy drink there. You get the idea.

All of society eats for fun on a different scale (pardon the pun). Socializing is tied to consumption in a very influential way. Would a movie cinema look the same without buttery popcorn and giant drinks? What's easier for quick catering than party pies? Even pub food is expected to be accompanied by a big pile of fries. When did hanging out become so unhealthy? Why can't we all mingle over a bowl of salad? You could be dieting with Jenny or watching your weight. But everything changes when we're out.

The concept of a 'treat' completely morphed over the past century. Not only is a treat or 'something nice' basically anything we should know better than to eat. But life is apparently more about us than ever before. We are a 'me' world. What does that have to do with food? I deserve a treat after my hard work. I should be rewarded with ice cream. Or fizzy drink. Or pizza. We are all great in our on way, and that should be celebrated. But don't celebrate your awesome-ness with something bad for you. Enjoy life and your gifts without an accompaniment of calories.

Advertisements for these foods are nearly always about the emotion involved. Only Snickers gets away with telling us to eat a chocolate bar if we are hungry. But everyone knows romance sells ice cream, cartoon characters sell biscuits because they're fun, and kids for years ate whatever the friendly clown told us to (without naming any fast food chains). Come on. These brands don't tell us to eat a bit of saturated fat coated in sugar. We have never been about what's in our food. We should be. But in reality, it's about emotion. It's about how we feel when we eat something. Nostalgia. Sociability. Fulfilment of an addiction (to food, I mean). They know we feel happier with this stuff than fruit or salad. With compulsory displayed kilojule counts in stores, we still choose to feel happy and ignore those little numbers. If the media is going to connect with us, they need to get past the rational arguments of health. They need to make us feel happy with the right foods instead of the wrong foods. I believe they are capable of this.

News and current affairs have it wrong - it stopped being about our physical wellbeing around the time it became about our mental well being. Too many people, at least on a sub conscious level, associate sweet foods with fun or happiness. The answer is to redefine what make us happy. We need to find joy in what we do or who we are with, instead of what we are consuming. Be occupied and have fun with other distractions. Im loving Tetris as a fidgety addiction. Whatever life throws our way, we need to feel relaxed regardless. Then we won't need food as a safety blanket. That is the message the media should be using. The media truly need to get past the obvious rational facts and connect with the public on an emotional level.

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