Seeking Safety

How much of our relationship to food is about seeking safety? I’d like to know the answer to this question. I also understand that the answer is variable and individual and therefore impossible to answer in an objective way. 

Since Abraham Maslow proposed the idea of a hierarchy of needs in the 1940s, we have generally had a picture of physiological needs as the basis of a pyramid. That means physiological needs are the priority. After that, comes the need for safety, then the need for love and belonging, etc.

But it’s really not that simple. We aren’t a perfect pyramid built one layer at a time. We need to feel safe or we may throw up any nourishment that’s available. We need love and belonging to feel safe so it’s impossible to meet our physiological or safety needs without incorporating that next layer of love and belonging. If this were not true, it would be the norm for babies to thrive whether or not they recieve love and attention.

Perhaps it would be more helpful to view ourselves as layer cakes. The layers support each other. Each is the same size. Each is equally important. When tasted together, the flavors enhance each other. 

A layer cake is a stable tower when the layers are securely held together. In a cake, we use frosting as the glue that both sweetens the tower and keeps the layers connected. In people, the frosting is attachment. 

Secure attachment looks like frosting applied with a steady hand. It has uniform thickness across the layer. The amount is perfectly matched to the thickness of the layers. Secure attachment feels safe. 

When our attachment style develops as avoidant, dismissive, ambivalent, anxious, or disorganized, we may not always feel safe in our relationships. This can affect any or everything in our lives and may manifest in our relationship to food.

Sometimes, we will need a full pantry to feel safe. Sometimes, the urge to eat or not eat will be about the feeling in our stomach. Sometimes, we need to feel soothed by the act of swallowing.  

Most often, overeating or binging and purging are characterized as attempts to fill a void. Again, that seems like an oversimplification. If a person to whom I felt anxiously attached withheld food from me during my developing years, I may feel a need to protect myself from starvation any time a similar feeling appears. That feeling may be triggered by an event that looks situationally different, but feels the same. 

If I eat during an emotional flashback (heightened sensation moment), I’m not really trying to regain attachment. My lower brain is signaling me to survive. I have to calm the lower brain before I can begin to consider repairing attachment. That means getting past the feeling and/or subconscious belief that I won’t survive. 

Once I am able to recognize what’s happening in the moment, I can explore the food and eating choices I make any time I experience this trigger. Without this recognition, the subconscious will continue to sabotage well-intended eating plans. 

We often feel guilt or shame when we fail to follow an eating plan. Understanding that your body may be seeking safety without your conscious knowledge can help alleviate guilt and give you a beginning point for exploring how this affects your relationship with food.

With insight and exploration, it’s possible to move the subconscious to the conscious. From there, all change is possible.

Ghost Kitchens

Ghost kitchens are a hauntingly hot trend for 2022. They’re a perfect fit for new dining habits developed during this pandemic. 

Ghost kitchens provide a take-out or delivery experience only. They may be operated by known brands or chains. Wendy’s, for instance, is planning to open 700 ghost kitchens over the next five years. Or they may be owned by a local chef.

In the rural south, we have a tradition of barbecue served out of the back door of a house. There’s no written menu and once the ribs are gone, they’re gone. Word of mouth is the only advertising. But don’t be fooled by the circumstances, the food can be superior. Around here, you can also find drop-by-the-barn fish fries on Friday nights in the spring. 

As ghost kitchens have grown in larger cities, rural versions of the trend have expanded into plant-based establishments like vegan twisted potatoes served from the back of otherwise abandoned (and perhaps ghostly) industrial buildings. Food is available for pick-up only. 

In a similar fashion, a church near my home rents out space in its industrial kitchen for food startups. Some place their products in local grocery stores or sell at farmers’ markets. A few have grown into brick-and-mortar venues. 

While brick-and-mortar was the previous goal of such startups, the increase in takeout prompted by the ongoing pandemic may mean ghost kitchens will revise their objectives. Not only is the market more friendly for take-out, remaining a ghost kitchen eliminates many of the staff shortage problems currently experienced by full-service restaurants.

The best restaurant dining experience I’ve had in the past year was consuming a salad delivered from Goop Kitchen’s ghost kitchen. Known as GP’s Clssic-ish Cobb, the salad contained a 7-minute egg, avocado, tomatoes, Point Reyes blue cheese, roasted golden beets, Mama Lil’s peppers and house pickled shishitos, little gem, and radicchio served with dijon mustard vinaigrette. 

Compared to my favorite over $20 local salad, Goop’s seems like a bargain at $16.29. Having less staff means less overhead which can mean less expense for the same food. Goop takes  advantage of owner Gwyneth Paltrow’s celebrity making it seem less ghost and more stealth. 

Another successful ghost kitchen concept comes from Guy Fieri in the form of Guy Fieri’s Flavortown Kitchen. Guy along with chef Robert Earl partners with existing restaurants to cook and sell his products in new markets. 

Beyond these, Virtual Dining Concepts offers ghost kitchens in the form of TikTok Kitchen, Barstool Bites, NASCAR Refuel, MrBeast Burger, Larray’s Loaded Mac & Cheese, Mariah’s Cookies, Mario’s Tortas Lopez, Pauly D’s Italian Subs, FoodGod Truffle Fries, Steve Harvey’s Family Food, Wing Squad, Buddy V’s Cake Slice, P.Za Kitchen. 

As staffing remains difficult and pandemic surges continue, the environment seems conducive for ghost kitchens to expand. 

Having had some mediocre to bad restaurant meals recently, I can see that putting more funds toward food and food preparation rather toward food service has the potential to improve quality. As a consumer, that sounds great to me.

On the other side of the equation is the permanent loss of jobs in the food service sector. I don’t know whether a significant number of those jobs can be made up in other industries. There could be skill, education, or experience barriers that prevent some workers from making a transition.

While there may be a temporary downside, I feel like ghost kitchens are a great avenue for bringing new food concepts to market quickly. I love innovation so I’m embracing this change. Won’t you join me for a take-out experience?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Am I Missing Something

Am I getting the nutrition I need, or am I missing something? It’s a question often asked by those with food intolerance and allergies. It’s also a question parents ask themselves when the kids will only eat mac & cheese and pizza.

An easy way to temper these concerns is to add supplements to our diet. On any given day, roughly half of us make this choice. Some do it with the intent of filling in dietary gaps for overall health. Others desire to prevent diseases like heart disease, osteoporosis, and cancer.

Are supplements the easy answer? I guess the answer to that is yes. Maybe a better question is whether they will accomplish what we intend.

After her Dr. Pepper phase, my mother began her day with somewhere between 15 and 20 pills – all supplements. After that, she drank a cup of hot water. Later, she might have buttered noodles, a lettuce salad topped with lemon juice, toast, and sometimes chili or pickled beets. When she continued to lose weight she couldn’t afford to lose, she began making drinks filled with protein powder.

Her diet leaned heavily on supplements to provide needed nutrition because her food intake was limited in both variety and volume. While she believed strongly in her decisions, supplements were not sufficient to support an optimum state of health.

A review of research suggests her experience is not unique. Supplements may not be as effective as we hope for preventing cancer and cardio-vascular events. And while supplementation of calcium and vitamin D can be helpful in preventing fractures to a point, in excess it can lead to harm.

So maybe the easy solution isn’t all that easy. To get the optimum benefits, you’ll need to carefully study the contents and contraindications of each supplement. Because the FDA doesn’t not have authority to review dietary supplements, this may mean you’ll have to contact manufacturers directly.

It will be prudent to read research on the interaction of dietary supplements and any prescription drugs you may take. And it will be beneficial to be up-to-date on research showing the effectiveness of supplements in many areas.

For those of us who are generally healthy but rely primarily on processed or restaurant food, it may prove to be less time consuming to make dietary changes rather than research supplements. Even if you don’t have lots of time to cook, incorporating more raw fruits and vegetables can improve vitamin and mineral intake. Choosing farm to table restaurants (make sure they are as advertised) can also improve the nutrient quality of your diet without requiring prep time.

If you are eating gluten-free, you may miss out on the vitamins and minerals used to fortify white flour products. But if you are consuming a wide variety of meat, poultry, fish, dairy, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and allowed whole grains regularly, you may not be missing any necessary nutrients.

For those whose doctors recommend supplements, don’t be afraid to ask questions to make sure you understand why and what benefits you can expect. If you are willing to make them, feel free to ask whether dietary changes could accomplish the same result. Working with your doctor, you can be an active participant in your own health plan.

When it comes to nutrition, we all want to make sure we get what our bodies require to be healthy. Dietary supplements are a tool you may or may not need. And they may or may not be effective in prevention or improvement of the condition you hope to prevent or improve.

Dietary supplements may look like the easy answer to the question, am I missing something? But when it comes to diet and health, it’s complicated.

Trouble With Gratitude

How can anyone possibly have trouble with gratitude? I appreciate knowing when someone is thankful for something I’ve provided. And I want others to have that feeling as well. But last week when I was working on a project centering around gratitude, I found myself writing things like: Gratitude is a hard pill to swallow; and gratitude may be an attitude, but it’s not mine. 

Typing out whatever pops into my head can help me get past a writing obstacle. Once the word flow begins, I quickly delete whatever nonsense I’ve been typing and forget about it. In this context, my seemingly bad attitude toward gratitude is a normal part of the process. What I wrote made me laugh and laughter is a catalyst for moving me forward.

But like all things funny, this makes me laugh because some kernel of truth resonates. I am truly grateful for many things. I’m grateful that I am resilient. I know how to gather myself up after a setback and try again. I know how to work past fear to meet a goal. I know how to temper my desire for immediate gratification. I understand the value of these skills and appreciate how they have helped me succeed.

While all of this is true, gratitude can also feel like a catch-22. Usually, I feel this way on days when something has triggered the sting of early memories. Some of my best skills were honed in (because of) less than ideal circumstances. And some days, for a few moments, the feelings pull me away from gratitude. That’s how I sometimes have a problem with gratitude.

I’m not proud of those moments, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who has them. And that is why practicing gratitude in a deliberate way is important for me. If I’m not intentional, it’s easier to lapse into old feelings rather than look at the good that surrounds me in any given moment.

It would be easy to say that if I did a proper job healing myself, that would not be the case. Anyone who believes that fails to understand the grasp long-term trauma can have on the subconscious. When damage has been done over a long period of years with no relief, the undoing can be nuanced, lengthy, and less than linear. 

There is no such thing as a proper path of healing for any of us. Life will throw unexpected obstacles in our way. Serendipitous meetings will bring unexpected support. The path will shift and we must shift with it. 

The best I can do is live with open eyes, open heart, and intentional action. The rest is beyond my control. Sometimes, I will feel truly grateful. Sometimes, I will know I’m grateful even when what I feel is sad. And that will have to be enough. 

Hopefully, it’s enough for all of us who, at times, have trouble with gratitude.