“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean, in a drop” – Rumi
The Perfect Storm
The ongoing global environmental crisis, a global pandemic and subsequent economic crisis have been of paramount importance in influencing millennials when it comes to their food choices. These external factors play both a direct and in-direct pivotal role in terms of our overall worldwide food consumption patterns. The journey of this resilient generation into adulthood, having been heavily accompanied by financial upheaval, technological transformation, and both political and social movements has been a huge learning curve requiring them to evolve and adapt in what can only be described as brave, courageous, and highly commendable ways. The culmination of this collective uncertainty has created a generation tentatively riding the cusp of a wave in terms of shaping new trends and making informed choices when it comes to their image and self-esteem.
The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey (2020) recently revealed that Millennials, amongst the other younger generations, remain resilient in the face of adversity. However, on the contrary, this may not reflect the overall individual daily insecurities of these beautiful people. Unique in their ways it may be hard at times for them to find their place in this uber-connected world. They are constantly bombarded on a day-to-day basis, by a plethora of marketing techniques designed to influence their insecurities when it comes to food.
Being dubbed ‘The Resilient Generation’ it is heart-warming to see the determination in this generational cohort and their ongoing efforts to drive positive change in their communities and around the world globally. However, driven by this united sense of collective respect and responsibility which at times, may overshadow personal insecurities concerning their body image.
Ripple on the River: The Psychology of Eating
According to Rolin et al., 2018 resilience is not only crucial in crises situations, but it’s also a helpful feature in dealing with everyday life. Research studies by Izydorczyk et al. (2019) show an association between lower levels of resilience and stronger excessive eating patterns triggered by food appearance, smell, or effortless accessibility to food. When we are busy, preoccupied or stressed we tend to consume the quickest most comforting foods that we can find. This quite often can be in the form of fast-food takeaway convenience options rather than more nutritious fresh fruit and/or salads options. This may not be intentional when the brain is distracted, but food may often be consumed then to make us feel better. In the long term, these types of food choices do not address the underlying issue affecting our emotional mental state. It is interesting to note that a higher level of self-esteem among young people, both men and women, is an important psychological intervening variable in generating healthy eating attitudes (Izydorczyk et al., 2019).
Unintentionally, millennials have grown up in a society that tends to promote and reward external beauty and physical attractiveness. Bearing this in mind, it’s inevitable that a large portion of this cohort, and in particular the vulnerable, will feel a wave of pressure to keep up with or maintain appearances with the result that some will suffer from anxiety, depression, eating disorders, low self-esteem, and body confidence issues. When it comes to food no one size fits all and I continually championed this important truth. Having researched various diets over the last three decades and in later years discussed and learned about them in greater detail with millennials and a variety of peer groups, both face-to-face and online via my social media platforms. I find it fascinating that at times, that a large proportion of millennials don’t seem to take the time to understand their bodies, by way of eating behaviours, food triggers and consumption patterns when it comes to their food purchasing decisions. They tending to be more influenced by marketing and perceived notions in terms of what’s on-trend thinking these will work to make them feel more body confident. From Intuitive Eating to Keto diets, Mediterranean diets to Low-Calorie diets I’ve seen them all in some shape or form. This generation are now presented with more food choices than all the earlier years of my life put together! However, it’s not to say that this multitude of food choices comes with additional benefits. New age food choices tend to favour the large multinational food companies whilst the undercurrent of supporting local producers is still there, bobbing away, trying to keep afloat, grounding this generation as a beacon of hope, and directing them to come safely back to shore.
Ebb and Flow: Food Education
“Comparison is The Thief of Joy” – Theodore Roosevelt
Over three years ago I embarked on a journey creating and launching my brand The Culinary Celt. Deep down I wanted to be a changemaker and leave an important legacy in terms of food education, by way of imparting my unfiltered knowledge about food and how to push through the noise when it comes to the way that it’s marketed.
At times food marketing can be a beast and raise its head in the form of the Lough Ness Monster! In the previous volume of this book series in my chapter titled “The Millennial Appetite for Culinary Wellness” I lay bare about the power of nutritional foods and how they can often be forgotten in the daily lives of this fast-paced generation, even though consistent healthy food choices can help counterbalance low mood, low resilience, and concentration levels, optimally nurturing both brain and body.
From an early age, millennials have been instilled with the notion of ‘Comparative Culture’, having grown up over decades of continual connectedness. This generational cohort is presented with the illusion of being in control when it comes to their body image. From my experience, acceptance of others seems to take centre stage. However, this may not be evident when it comes to self-acceptance and resilience on a personal level.
There is an apparent drive for perfectionism when it comes to body image and with this comes a skewed notion of ‘being enough’. The millennial cohort tends to lack a sense of self in this shared community, where it seems that the sum of the greater collective can at times fuel an epidemic of anxiety, lack of self-belief and comparing judgment. As food fuels our body this unfortunately may at times be the catalyst that individuals turn to in times of low resilience and personal critique. Is it Instagram able…will I be accepted…what filter will make me look better…the list goes on and on!
Lifebuoy: Eating Healthy Boosts Resilience
As humans, we biologically adapt to our food environments. We tend to eat what is convenient and available with the least amount of energy required to obtain it. On one hand here, in what’s classed as developed countries, we have a surplus of very accessible, inexpensive food which is readily available, convenient, and heavily marketed as ideal mealtime options. Whilst on the other end of the spectrum, education of nutrition and modern cultures have not kept pace with these changes in the food world. Concerns such as being overweight and worrying about food have been a result of this mismatch between human biological predispositions and the current food environment.
There are several ways that greater resilience can be built to alleviate stress.Diet is key in terms of body resilience, as eating the right foods and boosting the intake of certain nutrients can dramatically help increase energy reserves equipping us to better deal with life’s challenges. When it comes to feeling resilient what we eat matters. If stressed our body may become fatigued, which in turn may lead us to eat high-energy foods options such as sugars and refined carbohydrates as a pick me up!
A bespoke integrated approach tends to work best when building resilience around food. These words of India Arie’s song beautifully reflects the uniqueness in us all when it comes to facing head-on body resilience, through what I describe as a distorted culinary lens:
“When I look in the mirror and the only one there is me
Every freckle on my face is where it’s supposed to be
And I know my creator didn’t make no mistakes on me
My feet, my thighs, my lips, my eyes, I’m loving what I see
I’m not the average girl from your video
And I ain’t built like a supermodel
But I learned to love myself unconditionally
Because I am a queen…
Sailing Upstream: Food-Focused Mindset
Staying connected remains a way of life for millennials. The internet provides this unlimited access to information, generating a heightened awareness in relation to food tangibility that connects how we fuel our bodies via our natural environment. Good food choices are a positive and tangible way to empower facing daily body image insecurities. Food that is grown and consumed in its natural intended state helps bring about a better understanding when it comes to self-esteem and body image resilience. I have begun to call this new-age conscious state – hosting a ‘Food-Focused Mindset’.
Thankfully, millennial consumers are considering foods that have been produced sustainably. A primary concern for them lies in transparency, particularly when it comes to how food products are manufactured and what’s in them. However, we all play a role in terms of the health of the planet, especially when it comes to the greenhouse gas emissions caused by our food systems. So, our day-to-day food choices become extremely important in aiding the overall reduction of our carbon footprint.
Like lighthouses at sea, which for centuries have helped bring boats safely to shore, I view the multitude of social media platforms to be the new-age catalyst and enabler of educational shifts, that are empowering millennials to select and consume more wholesome, natural, and less ultra-processed foods.
Safely Ashore: The Future of Food
Innovation and technology will help us be more conscious of our ongoing food consumption patterns. Figuring out a secure, sustainable, and fair food system for our planet has become one of the most defining issues of our time. Where we go from here ultimately depends on our individual resilience and how our thoughts and perceptions of body image from a culinary perspective feed into the collective sum:
“Find the love you seek, by first finding the love within yourself.
Learn to rest in that place within you that is your true home” – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Published in the Mental Health for Millennial Book Series (Vol.5) by Book Hub Publishing http://www.bookhubpublishing.com
Deloitte (2020) “Global Millennial Survey”, available at https://www2.deloitte.com/global/en/pages/about-deloitte/articles/millennialsurvey.html, accessed at 17:25, 6th February.
Izydorczyk, B., Sitnik-Warchulska, K., Lizińczyk, S., & Lipiarz, A. (2019) “Psychological Predictors of Unhealthy Eating Attitudes in Young Adults”, Frontiers in Psychology, (Vol.10), pp. 590, available at https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00590/full, accessed at 14:35, 10th January.
Rolin H., Fossion P., Kotsou I., Leys C. (2018) “Considerations sur la resilience: trait ou aptitude?”, Revue Medicale de Bruxelles, (Vol.39), pp. 22–28, available at file:///C:/Users/cfitzgibbon/Downloads/rmb-1367%20(1).pdf, accessed at 12:15, 13th March. 10.30637/2018.17-050