Are You Playing Enough?

Sitting down to discus food regimens with women is a definite part of the work I do. By this point, the client and I would have interacted a fair bit and the relationship would be established between us. Because of the trust cultivated, we both bring our very vulnerable selves to the table. And the when reality of food regimen is about to become active in their routine, it almost brings them tears. It is as if the fun, creative, playful lightness that one associated with food and leisure is leaving the shores of one’s life. Forever. Never to come back again! What exactly are we fearing losing in this context? Is it really food? I’d like to talk about this.

One dominion factor comes to mind. Bollywood. Just how ubiquitous this bollywood stuff has become! From the clothes we wear and the songs we sing to the songs we sing to our kids and the dance moves they’re taught, the infinite number of programs that are created to entertain these babies, grannies and everybody in between – including Lord Ganesha himself, at our pandals – everything is something to do with bollywood. If not that, it’s still one of several ‘other-wood’-s!

Like bollywood and ‘other-wood’ related activities that seem take up time-space, food has come to define leisure to us humans. We reach for food to relax us, de-stress us, to uplift us, it is a main component of bonding experiences and more. Oh and, not to mention the dozens of food related programs and entire channels dedicated to everything food. A leading chocolate brand surveyed some years ago and declared with great pride, that a whopping 52% women preferred chocolate over sex. Without a doubt, we’re allowing food to the point of crowding out every other leisure activity we enjoyed as adults one time. So, in the context of discussing food regimen, it is no surprise that it feels so threatening. Why food is not suited for leisure or as play component is an important question you must ask yourself. But first let’s see why play is important to us as humans.

Author Diane Ackerman writes, ” for humans, play is a refuge from ordinary life, a sanctuary of the mind, where one is exempt from life’s customs, methods, and decrees.” Playing is the most instinctive, play for play’s sake kinda activity there is. Playing is beyond just fun, and definitely beyond gender and age. Scholars have not arrived at any one specific definition of play but they’ve agreed upon this – play is any solo or social activity that has elements of anticipation, surprise, pleasure, understanding, strength and poise. Given just how play-deprived that modern societies are becoming, there are Play Health experts nowadays. In a hospital and/or clinical setting, these specialists design appropriate play activities for clients. Like how we’ve come to painfully discover, opposite of play is NOT work. It’s often some manifestation of depression, suicidal tendencies and addictive behavior towards the screen or cyber-loafing as it’s called, food and substance addiction, and so on. And play is believed to be the serious missing factor that could heal these people.

There are many benefits to play and some of them are, developing
– a handle over one’s emotions
– perseverance
– resilience
– problem solving skills
– boost in creativity

At some point, for a variety of reasons ( sometimes related to play pathology like isolation, bullying etc) we take to substituting play with food. Given that food also shares some of the elements of play, such as pleasure and surprise – we resort to using food. This is alarming, to say the least. Food and eating as an activity that is steeped in purpose. But play is entirely for it’s own sake, food doesn’t lend itself to this type of treatment. But given that it is pleasurable is often misleading as a play activity.

We’ll continue this discussion in the coming posts. But for now, here’s what I’d like you to do – share below some of the leisure activities you’ve enjoyed so far in this month. If by any chance, were these activities involving food, say that too.

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