Most of us imagine that the day they will be at peace with their food they will be eating a balanced diet composed mainly of fruits, vegetables, whole grains etc., and they will no longer be craving for any junk. They will find more pleasure eating an apple than eating a strawberry cheesecake. I am sure that a lot of you wonder if this ideal vision is even possible since many of you have tried time and time again to eat a balanced diet but to no avail. I have as well, bouncing back in forth between a feeling of frustration (because I couldn’t eat the foods I wanted) and one of guilt (because I had succumbed to temptation).
GOOD AND BAD FOOD
But at one point, I had a revelation: there is no such thing as a “good” or “bad” food. There is just food.
We are constantly flooded with information. How many times have I read one fact o nly to hear the opposite the very next day. Every single food we eat has its “good” or “bad” label written all over it, generating how we feel while eating it or after (usually experienced as guilt or regret).
For this reason, I would like you to step back and press the reboot button: in other words, forget everything you have ever heard or read about food and also place all of your convictions aside.
To prove this point, let’s make an analogy and compare ingesting food and learning.
Take a minute and go back to school: bring to mind a terrible teacher you had. How much do you remember from what they taught you in class? When the teaching is bad, you seldom “ingest” or retain anything. Now take the time to remember a fantastic teacher, one that had a great way of transmitting information: there was something about him/her that made the learning process feel more like you were having fun than actually learning. In this case, you might still recall some of the things you learned back then. The purpose of my point is to prove that with pleasure we all assimilate much better.
The same holds true for food. If you ingest it with a closed state of mind, such as feeling frustrated because you don’t want the food placed before you, your digestive system will not be as effective to digest it. If you are happy, however, and sit down to eat the food placed before you in a mindful way, you will salivate more and your digestive system will be fully operational to absorb all the wonderful nutrients the food has to offer.
Understand that when you eat, you are not only taking in nutrients such as vitamins and minerals, you are also absorbing the emotions that come along with them.
What I would like you to understand is that “being at peace with your food” is not just a question of eating healthy and organic foods…acknowledging how you feel while eating is also paramount.
Marc David in his excellent book “Nourishing Wisdom” says: “Ironically, any benefits of the diet are often outweighed by the tension and anxiety built up in maintaining it. The guilt experienced when eating “forbidden” food creates more toxins in the system than the actual food. Furthermore, the tension caused by resisting forbidden food can be equally toxic.”
For this reason, I decided to stop banning certain foods and decided to instill a conversation between my body and myself. Every time I sit down to eat, I ask myself what it is I really feel like eating, first. I will make sure I get a portion of it. Then I will ask myself a second question: how can I make this meal healthier and I will make sure to add a homemade vegetable juice, sliced up tomatoes, diced watermelon, a little bowl of lentils etc. This way I feel happy because I can eat exactly what I feel like eating (which means the satisfaction factor is addressed and that there is no frustration) and I also feel proud because I made sure my body gets what it needs to be healthy and strong. This “Pride factor” is essential as well, as it excludes all feelings of guilt that can be associated with eating the foods you desire eating, such as a slice of pizza or fries.
Now that Mr. Frustration and Mr. Guilt were no longer invited to my table, I understood that to really be at peace with my food, I needed to pull up a chair for a very special guest, Mr. Mindfulness. Being mindful while eating is essential.
It all starts off in the kitchen while preparing your food as it is essential that you take your time and put love into the entire cooking/preparing process.
Then, set a nice table or at least make your plate look beautiful.
Sit down to eat.
Take a moment to feel grateful for the food that is placed before you.
Enjoy your meal in a peaceful environment. Turn your phone and the TV off and leave “issues” that need to be addressed for later.
Take your time. Place your fork and knife down after every bite and breathe slowly.
Reconnect with your food by taking the time to taste and to rediscover textures and flavors. Reconnect with your food by savoring and chewing every bite.
Listen to internal cues. Start paying attention to how you feel and do your best to stop before feeling full.
To conclude: you need to put aside anything that makes you feel frustrated or guilty and focus on making your meals more mindful and a source of joy. Sit down and eat, observe, be grateful and take pleasure. Add healthy components to every meal and start feeling proud of yourself for doing it. It’s not just a question of what foods you eat, you need to take the entire process into account. And once you start eating this way, it’s just a question of time… before you start seeing your plate slowly becoming healthier and healthier.