“Slowing down with food, getting present, and relaxing into the eating experience is one of the most powerful nutritional strategies we can practice.”
-Marc David, Founder, Institute for the Psychology of Eating
Do you watch those reality TV shows that involve well-known chefs berating and belittling promising new chefs as they pour their heart and souls into creating delicious masterpieces? Because I love to cook, I have tried to watch. It is far too painful, perhaps because it hits too close to home. How often are you that master chef beating yourself up around what and how you eat? Many of our thoughts around food are judgmental. We do epic battle in our heads. It is so automatic that we may not even realize it. We condemn certain foods as evil and revere others as the path to perfect health. Walking into the kitchen can feel like your own war zone. What is safe to eat?
Lay down your arms
Food is not evil. We determine the power that food holds in our life. We demonize, vilify, idolize or exalt it, sometimes even at the same time. We abuse it or use it as a replacement for things that are missing in our lives. Sugar, for example, is not malevolent. It does not have some sinister plot to take over our bodies and destroy our health. However when we have an unhealthy relationship with sugar, it can play a part in disease. How can we bring balance back into our food choices? Try these three steps for bringing joy back into eating.
Three steps to a new relationship
The first step in this process is to notice your brain’s programming. Watch for words like must, must not, never, always, can’t, bad for me, good for me, should, and shouldn’t. Often this means slowing down a bit and creating some quiet and stillness in your head so that you can discern. Try establishing a new ritual. Rituals can be powerful practices that keep you centered and present. Carve out 5 or 10 extra minutes when you enter your kitchen, before you begin to prepare food or eat. Brew a cup of tea, light a candle, breathe. Bring all of your senses into the moment at hand. Send up a blessing for the food that you are about to enjoy. Savor the momentary stillness you have created. As thoughts bubble up, watch for those judgement words. Simply notice them.
The next step is to start listening to the messages your body provides you. We often turn away from this information, ignoring or overriding it. Skin conditions, digestive issues, sleep disturbances, joint pain and weight gain or loss are just a few ways your body tries to get your attention. Even before these issues appear, our bodies are telling us what they want.Listen. Be wary of your brain hijacking you at this point; It’s your body you want to hear. What does your body want to be fed? It may tell you very clearly it wants certain foods, like greens or fresh fruit. It may tell you it wants to be fed more love, more passion, more life, less fear.
The third step is make choices that honor your body. Act on the information your body provides. It may be screaming it wants less sugar. Making the loving choice to reduce or remove it to support your health is different that excluding it because you’ve deemed it evil or it’s a punishment. The latter creates a stress response which contributes to dis-ease.
More joy, less judgement
Much of my time with clients is spent trying to bring joy back into eating. When they learn to stop beating themselves up over food choices and start nourishing their lives in delicious ways, often their health issues dissolve and their zest for life soars.