November 1


How to Separate Food Memories from Fun Memories

By Sue Ingebretson

November 1, 2011

autumn, candy corn, comfort foods, Fall, leaves, memories, trick-or-treat


This time of year sparks lots of comforting childhood memories for us all. Fall brings soothing landscapes, soothing feelings, and in particular, soothing foods.

As a child, I remember touring a caramel apple “factory” called The Sweet Shoppe in Forest City, Iowa. I viscerally recall the sights, smells, and tastes of peeling back the wax paper wrapper from the still warm finished product, and taking that first, juicy bite. I now make a yearly pilgrimage to a local apple picking destination (here in California) in order to recreate that childhood memory.

When I ask friends and clients about their favorite comforting childhood memories, it’s obvious that they’re often intrinsically linked to food. Memories of family get-togethers and the desserts. Harvest festivals and the potlucks. Why are our favorite memories often linked to food? One reason is that the sense of smell is one of our strongest links to memory. I can be taken back to my 3rd grade classroom simply from a whiff of perfume favored by my teacher, Mrs. Johnson. The smells of freshly peeled oranges, cinnamon, and shelled walnuts takes me back to the community parties following our children’s Christmas pageants.

Rather than wondering why foods are linked to our memories, a better question to ask is – does my body seek the comfort of the actual food or the comfort of the memory?

It takes a bit of focused detective work, but we can separate the two. Choose to recreate the memory and emphasize the sights, smells, and experiences in your mind as you do. Focus on the specifics of what makes that particular memory comforting. It’s your choice how to think of the food that’s linked to that memory.

Trick-or-treating is a great example of how to refocus memories. As a kid, I remember running around the neighborhood (disappointed at having to wear a snowsuit OVER my costume), and sharing the freedom to explore my community with my friends – after dark! Of course, I have memories of the homemade popcorn balls, cookies, and candy corn given out by my neighbors. But what’s my strongest memory? It’s the interaction with my friends on a fun, autumn night. It’s the crunching of leaves underfoot. The smell of crisp, cold air.

Binging on candies and treats today won’t help me to recreate the memories I desire. And … even worse, it would leave lasting unhealthy effects on my body. One way to help separate your food memories from fun memories is to ask yourself a few questions about the food. If you indulged, would it strengthen or nourish your body? Would consuming it be in alignment with your goals? Would it help to build you up, physically or tear you down? As an alternative, consider choosing to focus on the healing aspects of your memories and enjoy the warmth and pleasure they can bring.

How do you separate foods from your memories? Have any great suggestions for the upcoming season? Please share your ideas!

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