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Honey, We Need to Talk About Your Food Porn Addiction

If you're serious about this, you'll stop looking at this photo in 3, 2, 1...
If you're serious about this, you'll stop looking at this photo in 3, 2, 1...
Catherine Downes

Last week we received an email about food porn addiction, which was really just an effort to promote the book Eating Mindfully by Dr. Susan Albers, Psy. D. Usually we discard these things, but we thought it'd be sooooo freaking hilarious to ask sly porn questions!

Then we'd all laugh at our wit and how we swindled a doctor into taking us serious about a quasi-food porn addiction.

All fun and games, right? Well, yeah, up to the point the doctor starts to make you read more intently and not laugh so much.

I think we all need to talk...

What are some of the signs that food porn is affecting our ability to be productive members of society? We used to see delicious pictures of food and recipes go hand-in-hand. Now, food photos are enlarged, luscious pictures without any words or recipes (aka food porn). The purpose is to pique the appetite and pseudo engage your senses.

When you spend way too much time on food sites, Pinterest or buried in food blogs, you know that food porn may be becoming a problem. If your significant other is complaining that you are on the computer too much, it's time to re-evaluate your relationship with the screen.

Or re-evaluate our relationship with that significant other if he can't support our hobbies, right? What are the signs of addiction to food porn? With any kind of problematic behavior, when the behavior has a negative impact on the rest of your life, you know it is a problem. For example, you get in trouble at work for searching food sites instead of doing your work, or your daughter doesn't get her homework done because you wouldn't get off the computer.

Don't suppose you've been to the Texas State Fair. It's a glorious, living-breathing example of all that has gone wrong with food porn. No, I haven't been there. However, I have been to county fairs in Ohio, which sound similar. For weeks, people begin to talk about the "fair food" they are going to consume -- fried cheese, deep fried Oreos, elephant ears, etc. By the time they get there, they have worked up their expectations pretty high. Food porn does the same thing; it creates a fantasy about what we think it will taste like and the amount of pleasure it will dish out.

We've all heard that a little food porn in moderation is OK. How much is "moderation?" For some people, looking at tasty food on the Internet isn't such a problematic thing. It may motivate you to make a new recipe or stimulate your appetite in a good way. Do you feel a pull towards them, disgust, desire? What does this image do to you? If it's causing you distress or out-of-control cravings, turn away or turn it off.

Does looking at food porn count if no one else sees me looking at it? Maybe. Food porn removes you from directly experiencing and sensing food. Instead of tasting chocolate, you are thinking about tasting chocolate. Doing this ramps up what you imagine food will taste like in your mind -- expecting that it will taste as good as it looks on the screen. Your significant other might wonder why you don't like his/her meals anymore when you used to like them (because now your taste expectations are through the roof).

 

Might there be an opportunity for a Weight-Watchers food porn edition? Like you accumulate a certain number of points throughout the day ... It would be an interesting research study to track the number of points you consume in one day after an hour or so of food porn versus a day without it. If I had to guess, I would think that a food porn filled day would dramatically increase your Weight Watcher points. That is just my hypothesis.

Freud called seeing your parents having sex "The Primal Scene." How does one cope with seeing your parents look at photos of Emeril's dishes? We get a lot of messages about how to eat from our caregivers. If you see your parents pursuing photos of food and then head directly toward the refrigerator for a snack, it's likely that you might unconsciously pick up that habit. We don't want to give kids the message that it's not OK to eat. We want them to pick foods thoughtfully, not in reaction to seeing photos.

Is it normal to think about cheese every 5-7 minutes? Remember that the more you resist -- the more things persist. A new line of research is all about "acceptance" of the craving. Rather than playing tug-of-war with your food desires, accept that they are there and learn to answer them thoughtfully and mindfully. When you don't, it's more likely that you'll throw up your hands and just give in completely. I'm not saying eat whatever you want. I'm saying to accept that you WILL crave good food -- this makes you human. Work with, not against, this craving.

How do we balance the feeling of satisfaction with guilt? I teach people about taking mindful bites -- bites in which you truly smell, taste, listen and get in touch with the experience of eating. When you really enjoy food and are mentally present when you eat it, you feel more in charge of how much you eat. Guilt pops up when you mindlessly pop food into your mouth without really thinking about it. That is the kind of eating that leads to regret and guilt. Slow down. Take one bite at a time. Keep your mind focused on this bite before moving onto the next bite. Eat, drink and be mindful.


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