A 14-year-old girl had the following dream:
“I have recently been having recurring dreams that I am eating unhealthy food in very large portions.”
When I asked the dreamer if she had any ideas of what this dream might mean to her, she stated that she had been on a strict diet and was not consuming very much food at all. She said that she often felt hungry in waking life, and was especially pre-occupied with not eating anything that might be considered unhealthy. In the dream she felt anxious, and she reported sweating a lot in her sleep.
So, what do we make of this dream? Is it occurring because she has been depriving herself of food in waking life, or is it symbolic of something else? The only way to know is to check with the dreamer, since any dream can have a variety of possible interpretations. And, in this case, we actually do have a little bit of dream research to back us up as well.
Studies have been conducted in which people were deprived of food, then monitored in a sleep lab to see what they were dreaming about. Can you guess? Yes, they dreamed about food. This very much fits with the above dreamer’s waking life experience. However, why did she dream of eating unhealthy food, rather than a sumptuous, nutritious feast? A different person under similar circumstances might dream of eating all of their favorite foods and experience pleasure, rather than anxiety, around it.
This young woman was putting a great deal of energy into not only eating sparsely, but into eating only healthy foods. She developed almost a fear of eating something unhealthy and “falling off the wagon” so to speak. This theme can also show up in the dreams of recovered alcoholics, addicts, and former cigarette smokers. It is a reflection of the fear of going back to the old unhealthy ways, and a reminder not to. What a relief to wake up from that dream. So, in this sense, the dreams are reflective of our young dreamer’s fears as well.
What about the night sweats? The anxiety? It is very plausible that sweating in her sleep and the feeling of anxiety in the dream could have been physically triggered by low blood sugar from simply not eating enough before going to sleep. Whatever the body experiences physically can be incorporated into our dreams.
Aside from any biological basis, it is always important to look at emotional connections as well. I have seen many dreams about eating unhealthy food that have more to do with unhealthy relationships, or participating in things – not necessarily food related – that are unhealthy for us in other ways. The food in these instances is a metaphor for something else. We explored this angle and the dreamer could not connect anything to her current waking life, so we came to the conclusion that in this case it was the hunger factor that caused the dreams, and the desire for health combined with low blood sugar that created the story of eating unhealthy food and feeling anxious about it.
Working with this recurring dream theme proved to be an eye-opening experience for the dreamer. She came to her own awareness that, while healthy eating was very important to her, perhaps she was taking the food deprivation part to a bit of an extreme in a way that was actually not healthy for her. Our dreams will show us where we are off-balance, and give us clues about how to restore balance. My belief is that we all have this knowledge within us, and our dreams are an amazing portal to access this information. I love to facilitate the process, but the dreamer comes to their own awareness by connection with their deepest and true self, and it is an honor to be part of the experience.