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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Chapel Hill chapter.

We all have mixed feelings about food. There are a lot of positive and negative connotations we associate with food, making for a complicated relationship. These strong associations give food its power.

First, let’s talk about the negatives. I won’t hit all of them, but I think these are a few of the most common. As women, our relationship with food is made more strenuous when combined with societal expectations of ‘beauty’ and the value placed on us for upholding (or not upholding) those expectations. And there are a lot of misconceptions about food’s role in our ability to adhere to those standards. Food is usually painted as the villain in our quest to be skinny, unless, of course, it is a kale salad or açai bowl (sorry to come at you, Frutta Bowls. Love you). And, really, it is such a shame that our relationship with food is colored by this fear of it – this fear of losing our value if we gain a few pounds. There is a reason eating disorders are more common in women. However, this pressure to skip meals is counterproductive. Often, we end up stress-eating or eating worse because we are so frustrated and confused. 

Stress-eating comes from more than just ridiculous societal expectations. Food, often times, brings us joy, and we can resort to eating to feel better. However, boredom also triggers an eating response in us. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve eaten just because I had nothing else to do. And, a lot of the time, we don’t even think about it. Eating when you aren’t hungry or when you don’t want to can lead to lethargy, overeating, bad nutritional habits (let’s face it, most of us don’t go for kale chips as a snack, not that we should; those are gross) and other bad stuff (idk, I’m not EXSS major). 

What I like to think about to stop myself from eating out of boredom is super nerdy. The Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility is a great way to think about eating. For non-econ peeps, that basically means the first cookie you have is FANTASTIC, but the third and fourth are not so fun. The satisfaction you get from a “product” – in this case, food – goes down a little after each additional “unit” – bite. You have to ask yourself if you really want to keep eating. Are you full? Will eating more make you feel tired or sluggish? Whatever answer you come up with is perfectly valid. Just check in with your body and make sure. 

Now that we have the yucky connotations of eating out of the way, we can talk about the positive power of food. First, a good meal can give you tons of energy. Eating the right food can prevent you from getting that start-of-semester sickness. Overall, food is a key component in taking care of the body. I think we all know that.

Cooking is yet another great aspect of food. There is nothing like cooking your own meal to put a little stride in your step. Baking is one of my favorite stress-relieving activities. And the best part about baking and cooking is that you get to share it with the people about whom you care. There is nothing like sharing a meal with other people. There is a reason every culture has some version of this scene. Food connects us because we all need it. That is the social power of food. And, since we are social creatures, that power is pretty potent. 

It is such a shame that so many of us don’t have what we feel is a “healthy” relationship with food. But I think one of the best ways to harness the power of food is to focus on the positive feelings you get from it, in whatever way you do. Food can connect and empower; it can be creative and refreshing. Never feel ashamed to eat.

Katie Jackson

Chapel Hill '23

Katie is an undergrad at UNC Chapel Hill. She is part of the Campus Y Outreach Taskforce and HYPE Tutoring. Interested in sustainability, economics, and global culture and policy, Katie plans to study business, public policy, and environmental sciences. Katie loves her kitten named Hiccup (yes, from How to Train Your Dragon), her two dogs, her other kitten (even though it is technically her sister's) and her cat.