The biggest thing your diet is missing
In the Western world, we have often come to view food and the entire process of eating as transactional.
Calories in, calories out: carefully calculating our macros, and counting every nutrient to achieve optimal performance.
Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum: “I’ll eat whatever I want, when I want, because I can, thank you!”
And while I respect science and enjoy exploring the technical side of nutrition and consider myself to be body-positive and in favour of the idea that there are no bad foods (just poor relationships with food), there is an element to food and mealtime that we seem to have forgotten: sacredness.
I travel often to Latin America, and specifically to communities that aren’t as developed with the technology and resources that we have in many parts of the Western world, and I am hard-pressed to explain what I do as a body image and emotional eating coach.
In those places, disordered eating and poor body image are not a problem, because every bite of food is sacred.
In our world where fast food is juxtaposed with careful nutritional calculation, we have forgotten what a gift each bite of food is.
And similarly, we have forgotten about the miracles that are wrapped up in the entire process of eating — from the way that food is grown to how it is digested and converted into fuel for our bodies.
Our control-based eating patterns, and even the “screw it” attitude, represent a disconnection from the sacredness of food — from the miracle of the process, and from the recognition that our bodies are just as sacred.
What’s more, we have forgotten that the energy with which we consume food also contributes to the way that it is received and digested by our bodies.
When we are relaxed and joyful and say a blessing or set an intention for how we want food to work in our bodies, our bodies can perform their natural processes more easily.
But if we are eating while multitasking or feeling wracked with guilt over eating something “bad”, our bodies tense up and we send them into a stress response, which keeps them from digesting and absorbing our food optimally.
There is no nutritional value in guilt, only heaviness.
With all the studies that have been done to show what harsh words versus kind words do to living organisms, why do we fail to apply this to our own bodies, and to the living organisms with which we fuel them?
Eating is meant to be a ceremonious union of body and spirit. In ancient cultures, blessings were given and food was eaten with reverence.
This respect for the body and for the food calms the nervous system and gives it energetic instruction to receive the food and not reject it. Not to mention pleasure!
Greek paintings and ancient Platonian philosophies link the healing power of food with pleasure.
Food is meant to be savoured, enjoyed and used as a pleasurable experience. It was even thought that pleasure increased the medicinal potency of foods.
For all of our nutrition science and careful calculations, we are over-complicating our relationship with food and forgetting the point.
Food and the act of eating is a sacred privilege and a gift. It is pleasurable and life-giving.
What really matters is not what you eat, it’s how you eat it.