For the love of food
When I think about food, I get excited, because I love food. Everything I eat, I eat because I love it. I enjoy the taste, the smell, the texture. I look forward to the way it makes me feel; satisfying my hunger, and comforting me. I find soup on a cold day particularly comforting. I like to have some really dense bread or toast with my soup, spread with butter or coconut oil. I like to have a few squares of dark chocolate following my lunch or dinner. I find that it finishes the meal beautifully for me.
These days, I find that there are fewer people enjoying their food, and more people fearing their food. In my nutritional consulting practice, I have spoken to many people about eating, and have come to the conclusion that there are three things that get in the way of us enjoying our food; dieting, food trends and multitasking.
In dieting, we are restricting our food intake, usually counting calories or (Weight Watcher) points. We are taught which foods are highest in calories or points, and we avoid these foods and label them as being “bad”. If we happen to eat these foods, we are “cheating”, and we feel guilt and shame. The rest of the time, we are eating foods that are “healthy choices”; low calorie and low fat. We are ever-mindful of everything that we are putting into our mouths, even though we may not be enjoying what those things are! Everything is carefully planned, according to the plan of choice; calories or points. If we deviate from the plan, we have to pay for it by exercising more or by eating less at the next meal. There is not any food enjoyment on a diet because you are in food jail, seemingly for having enjoyed food too much in the past.
The truth is that dieting never works, but we keep hoping that it will, and so we try it one more time.
Food trends are ways of eating that are made popular, often by celebrities or health gurus. Convinced that the food trend is the best possible way to lose weight, stay healthy, live longer, save the planet or whatever, people follow the rules and find a new way of eating. Some of the food trends that are out there now are Paleo, Ketogenic, and Intermittent Fasting.
Although more complicated than counting calories or points, following a food trend is dieting in disguise. It is still taking all of the fun out of eating, and classifying foods as “good” and “bad”.
I understand why food trends are, well, trendy. There are enormous amounts of conflicting messages out there about food, and it is hard to know what to believe. Our food supply chains are increasingly dubious and far from transparent. We want to know that what we are eating is safe and will be of a benefit to us. When a food trend comes along, we may decide to give it a try.
I don’t have a problem with people experimenting with different ways of eating. I encourage it. What I have a problem with is when people stop listening to their own bodies and override the messages that their bodies are giving them about the way that they are eating, and the way that it is affecting their bodies.
For example, I know many people, myself included, who have tried a vegetarian diet and did not thrive on it. For me, I felt cold and weak, and I felt like something was missing from every meal. After I started eating animal protein again, I felt my body regain its warmth and energy, and my meals were much more satisfying to me.
Food trends can be a useful tool to get to know your body and what works for it. Sometimes you can gain a piece of information that you didn't have before you looked into the food trend. But, I must emphasize that it is important to recognize when a certain way of eating is not working for your body, and to learn how to create your own way of eating, that does work. It is through experimentation that you will discover this. This is true food freedom; making choices that are best for you.
We live in a culture that conditions us to be busy. We have career and family responsibilities that require our time and attention. We have financial responsibilities that require us to work. When we aren’t working, we are entertaining ourselves. As a result, we are often multitasking; doing more than one thing at once.
Eating has become one more thing that we do while we are doing something else. We are usually on our phones or tablets, or watching TV, while we eat.
By focusing on things other than the food in front of us, we are mindlessly putting food to the background, and missing the boat when it comes to the pure enjoyment of eating.
I don’t care what you eat, as long as you eat it mindfully. By mindfully, I mean without distraction, and with as much presence as you can manage in the moment, whether you are alone or in the company of your family.
Taste your food, chew your food; enjoy your food. In order to do this, remove a few things from your eating environment, such as your laptop, tablet and phone. Turn off your TV.
Next, step into a place of wonder and appreciation; for where your food came from; who prepared it; the flavour of the food; the texture and the smell of the food. You will need to slow down the speed at which you eat your food, so that you can do this.
You will find that through disconnecting from your devices while you are eating, you will reconnect to your food in a whole new way. You will discover which foods bring you the most satisfaction. By eating more slowly, you will notice more readily when you are full, and you will not need anyone to tell you how much of a food you are “allowed” to eat. You will intuitively know when to stop eating. By chewing your food more thoroughly, you automatically improve the digestion of your food, and the assimilation of the nutrients in your food.
In Relationship With Your Body
It is very important that we get in tune with our bodies and start listening to the cues that they are giving us. Hunger; fullness; thirst; energy; lack of energy; digestion; lack of digestion. These are all cues that we need to listen to. Once we get in tune with our bodies we can feed them what they are asking for.
In my own journey of discovery, I came to the realization that I am in a relationship with my body. As with each relationship that anyone is in, there needs to be trust, respect and communication. I have learned over time to respect my body's wisdom and to trust it. I listen to my body and give it what it needs in the way of food and water, exercise, relaxation, rest and sleep. It communicates to me constantly.
When I consider what to eat, I think about how much I will enjoy eating the food, and how my body will feel afterwards; 45 minutes afterwards and a day afterwards. I use my digestion and energy levels as a guide. I don't have hard-and-fast rules, as that is too hard to live by. But I do know my body well enough to know what works well for me and what does not. I have some foods that cause a little digestive disturbance, but I know how much of these foods I can tolerate, and I can decide to eat them or not, depending on how much I'd like to taste them at the moment.
I invite you to start trusting your body, and to start really listening to your body’s wisdom. Gradually, with practice, you will develop the relationship necessary to have constant communication with your body, and to care for your body the way it needs to be cared for; with compassion and kindness.
I also invite you to start loving your food.