Anyone putting on weight during the lockdown?
How about consoling with chocolate or an evening glass of wine? Has anyone been distracting themselves with baking?
You are not alone, but have you ever wondered why we comfort and distract ourselves with food?
Some may be familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Food is a basic physiological need; we fundamentally need it to survive, but there’s a reason we are not always happy with eating simple, straightforward food.
We want more than what meets the criteria to keep us alive. Our relationship with food is intrinsically linked to our emotions and our relationships. We serve food in celebration or commiseration, to our loved ones when they feel unwell, when we need cheering up, and when we want to impress someone.
But why do we do this? If we look back at the colorful pyramid, we will see that each need will feed (no pun intended) into the next level, until we reach self-actualization, to be the best we can be. Once we have met our most basic needs, we look to fulfill our need for security and comfort.
The pandemic attacks our sense of safety and leaves us feeling vulnerable. Our livelihoods and our financial security are at risk. Our health is at stake. Our shared resources, the NHS, financial support from the government, and education for our children have all been limited. We have absolutely no control over these vast life-changing events, and this creates stress and anxiety.
When we reach for the biscuit, it is our subconscious’s way of meeting our need for security. It is taking comfort in what we have always associated with family, celebrations, and feeling good.
Food helps us connect and fill a need for love. I have been having roast dinners with my grandparents via Alexa’s Echo Show, birthday parties via WhatsApp, and trivia nights and teatime sessions on Zoom. We spend most of our “together” time eating at the table, talking about our day and how we are feeling, or gathering together to watch a film and eat the pizza we all helped to make.
We have become a nation of bakers, making cakes to show we care. And there are amazingly selfless people opening up their kitchens in their closed business to make meals for NHS staff. In our baking and making, we start to rebuild our self-esteem. We are proud of our baking and our random acts of kindness. We also teach our children math and chemistry through cooking. We recognize those for the hard work and sacrifices they have made to look after us and are being recognized in return.
We are discovering talents we didn’t know we had, and new opportunities are being revealed to us. We have found our sense of purpose and demonstrating the best humanity has to offer, all through food.