It’s obvious that our world has a weight problem. It should be equally obvious that it’s not something that will go away overnight. The state of overweight is a multifaceted issue that encompasses a broad range of variables, but today’s post is about something more specific that has a significant effect on us: the role of food in our lives.

It used to be that humans were responsible for gathering their own food — waaaay back when we were hunters and gatherers. Much of early man’s day was dedicated to finding sustenance for survival. As time went on, through division of labor and specialization, we left the food procurement and preparation to farmers, ranchers, bakers, cooks (moms, although admittedly, it’s not one of my stronger points) and the like.

Now, most of us in the industrialized world don’t worry about whether we’ll eat. We worry about where and what. Oh the choices! Narrowing down our options taxes our highly-developed brains. Interestingly, some of the biggest arguments my husband and I had (pre-kids) had to do with where we were going to dine. That’ll test the strength of your marriage: two very hungry humans in one little car, one vegetarian/one omnivore, so many possibilities but nothing seems to please both, neither wants to make the final decision.

No worries, we’ve gotten over that.

Over the years there’s been a shift from food-as-fuel to food-as-entertainment. The food industry has had a hand in this, and their marketing departments have been working overtime. Food portions have exploded to ridiculous sizes, food formulations contain a jacked up amount of salt/sugar/fat to excite our senses, all in multiple versions to appease our obsession with variety. We are encouraged to treat ourselves, indulge, make tonight special — because we’re worth it, we deserve it.

So…when we can make tonight special…and by extension of that, make every night special…what do we do when we really want something SPECIAL? When getting home through traffic deserves a treat, how do we treat ourselves on the days that call for a true celebration? In essence, we’ve raised the bar on indulgences.

And fun. Food must now be FUN, particularly when kids are involved. You see it in parents’ magazines and of course it’s prevalent in advertising to “kids of all ages”. We’re all brought back to our childhood when we could stuff ourselves silly and not worry about repercussions.

But the longer we cling to the notion that food serves a purpose other than to nourish us, the more we strengthen the influence that it has on our emotions. Most of the people I speak with have some sort of emotional link to food that makes dropping weight all that more difficult. That’s when the simple concept of “healthy eating and exercise” becomes not-so-simple.

Do yourself a favor. Don’t treat your body with food rewards. Treat your body with respect.