What would you say if I told you that your relationship with food is one of the most important (and flawed) relationships you will ever have in your life? Think about it... what did you eat today? And how did it make you feel?
Maybe you've come to terms with it and already realize how much you are ruled by the simple or complicated choice of what to eat. Or maybe you're still living in blissful ignorance of the power your food has over you (the power you've given your food over you). Wherever you are in the swirl of personal food politics. I suggest you ask yourself if it's where you want to be.
Does your diet (i.e what, when and how you eat) leave you feeling energetic, light, satisfied, confident, guilt-free and empowered? Would you say that it supports who you are in every possible way? If your answer is anything less than an enthusiastic “hell yes!”, we've got work to do.
Why? Because eating is about SO much more than just delivering vitamins and nutrients to your body (if you've ever devoured a pizza or carton of ice cream after a victory... or defeat you know what I'm talking about). Our obsession with food has complicated our relationship with it (note to self... obsession isn't great for any relationship). Along with that we've polarized food (and ourselves) into two buckets... “Good” and “Bad”. And in doing so we've removed the ability to see our food and how we consume it for what it really is to us... therapy, entertainment, control, camaraderie and yes, self-medication.
According to ayurveda the act of preparing and eating should be considered a sadhana (sacred practice). What underlies this belief is the view that eating is as much about feeding the mind (and soul) as feeding the body. Because how we feel about the entire process, from choosing to cooking to eating will inform how we're nourished by it.
So how would you characterize your relationship with food (and eating)? Guess what...? It matters... a lot. And if you're thinking it might be time for a change, start with awareness and these few simple practices...
Know what food is about for you...
Consider that like your spouse, partner or closest friend, there are some things you will never know or understand about your food. What's important is that you know the basics, how you feel about it and how it makes you feel. For this you need awareness more than research. Take time to know where you stand in your relationship with food, because just like with those you love, if your diet doesn't feed and empower you it's worth asking yourself why (and making some changes in your thinking and choices).
Be Hungry sometimes...
Ayurveda says that our digestion is compromised when we eat before our last meal is digested. Most of us busy people are run by our schedules (and our emotions). When what and how we eat has almost nothing to do with our bodies and everything to do with our state of mind (or the time of day). Physical hunger is a novelty and a nuisance more than a gentle reminder from our bodies that it's time to eat. Allowing yourself to feel hunger does two things... It gives you the opportunity to observe how much your mind controls what and when you eat, and it actually strengthens your digestive fire (ability to digest things). Try it!
Eat in peace...
How often do you eat on the run, in front of the television, reading a book, or while driving, talking or trying to do a gazillion other things? If this is you (and let's face it, it's all of us sometimes), realize that you're compromising your digestion. Your body is a marvel of multi-tasking, but in the same way that driving and texting can be a little taxing on the brain... eating and texting (or anything else) can mess with your ability to get everything you need from what your food (and it create toxins to boot). So try enjoying your meals in a peaceful setting. No TV, or reading, driving OR texting. Give your body-mind the space to do what it does best. Consider that your food feeds you in so many ways and by trying to do too many things while eating you're actually missing out on the party!
Cook with love...
Ever had a meal (or anything) prepared with love? Something prepared by your mother, grandmother, some family member or friend just for you? If so then you know how it makes you feel.
Guess what...? You can do that for yourself and even better you can do that for others. Food is a gift that we give our bodies and ourselves, the food we eat is what literally becomes our flesh and bones, so choose wisely and put all the love and goodness you can muster into the process of preparation and serving. Feed your body with love and it will return the favor.
Eat your biggest meal of the day at lunch time... You know how the hottest part of the day is that few hours between late morning and early after noon? Well according to Ayurveda these same hours are when our digestive fire is at it's peak. So this is the time when eating the biggest meal of the day makes sense. Lot's of people tell me this challenges the way they've been brought up to eat (biggest meal at dinner time), but the way I see it, the real challenge here is choosing for your body instead of your mind.
Oh and whatever you do enjoy yourself. An important part of any relationship is allowing it to give you pleasure, to open you up and light your fire without guilt or concern for looking good or doing the “right” thing. Like anything, if you can embrace your food, and eating it, with authenticity and love you'll be satisfied before the first bite!