back to basics | mindfulness + gratitude + food
Earlier this month, we kicked off the “Back to Basics” series. This week, we’re taking on my fourth food rule: practicing mindfulness and gratitude around our food and, perhaps more importantly, our food choices.
If you recall, my “food rules” are as follows:
- Eat when you are physically (not emotionally) hungry. (Lots more on that in the months to come!)
- Focus on whole foods,
- Cooked from scratch,
- Eaten in moderation,
- With mindfulness and gratitude.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the expression “food rules” even as I write about them. You know me and language….
For many of us, just the thought of imposing a rule on what we can and can’t eat stirs up a little flame of rebellion.
And I’ll tell you: working in nutrition services at a medical center, I hear a LOT of, “Why can’t I have that?!?”
If you know me and my vegetable crusade, you will not be in the least surprised to know that I’m always suggesting, “Would you like some vegetables with that?” And I’ve been known to tell patients flat out that tapioca pudding is not a vegetable.
I did manage to hold my tongue when a patient snapped, “I don’t eat vegetables!” My first instinct was to ask, “And how’s that working out for you? Because you’re now hospitalized and on a LOT of dietary restrictions.”
When people ask how my job is, I usually say that it makes me want to weep on a daily basis.
Not only because of how ignorant the general American public is about food and nutrition (not judging—it’s not taught in most schools) but because of the numerous teaching/learning opportunities that it’s impossible to take advantage of when there are three more patients in the queue waiting to place their meal order.
But I digress.
I’m strongly considering replacing the word “rule” with “suggestion,” “principle,” or “tenet.” (No, it’s not “tenant.”) Now accepting your thoughts on this matter!
mindfulness + gratitude
There is a type of mindfulness about food that involves having rules around what, how much, and when we eat. And that’s not what I mean by mindfulness.
The type of mindfulness I’m referring to in this final food rule (suggestion? principle? tenet?) is more along the lines of gratitude.
How much appreciation do you show for your food?
For many people who are on a health journey that involves weight loss, learning how to eat mindfully can be a big step. And it’s related to having awareness—if not rules—around what, how much, and when we eat although it’s more about how we eat.
A few suggestions for mindful eating:
- Eat at the table, preferably with others—and definitely not with a book or a tv or mobile device
- Use all your senses: look at your food, smell it, touch it, taste it, even listen to how it sounds in your mouth as you chew.
- Chew your food thoroughly—digestion begins in the mouth!
- Put your fork down between bites—it will help you to eat rather than gulp.
- Keep checking in with your stomach: are we satisfied now? still hungry? Try the Okinawan practice of hara hachi bu: eating to 80% full. If you pause when you are satisfied rather than full, you won’t feel so stuffed 20–30 minutes later.
the energy of food
Food provides us with energy, which we measure in calories. And there’s another form of energy involved.
Consider the miracle of food and the human body: we eat it, and our bodies use it to regenerate themselves. It’s where the building blocks of bone, muscle, blood, and all our tissues come from! (You want a real miracle? Cows raised on pasture do that by eating only grass!)
So yes, we can be grateful for the miracle of food. And it goes much deeper than that.
In an earlier blog post series, I wrote about SOLE food (you can find links to the whole series in the introduction to this post). And the idea of gratitude for our food is closely related to the E in SOLE: ethical.
We are energetic beings: when we walk into a room where there are other people, we pick up on the energy immediately. Are people happy and laughing? Or is it obvious that we just stumbled upon a tense situation?
When we eat real food—not the hyperprocessed food-like objects found in the grocery store’s middle aisles—we eat from the natural world. And until very recently, it was also alive and responding to the energy around it. That energy includes the the natural world that grew it, and it also includes the energy of everyone who’s touched it on its way to your plate.
It’s why a vine-ripened local tomato tastes infinitely better and has more nutrition than the TITs (tomatoes in training) that are conventionally grown and blasted with gas to ripen them. It’s why grandma’s Thanksgiving dinner tastes so much better than the casual dining version. She put in a lot of Vitamin L (love) that someone paid a ridiculously low wage just can’t muster.
There’s a final step to mindful eating that is often overlooked. We often focus on mindful eating for the effect it can have on our own bodies.
But we are all connected—and we thrive on connection. The pandemic has shown us just how much we need connection, not just to each other but to Nature.
And food is a potent symbol of that connection, bringing together the natural world (soil, water, air, sun, pollinators) and the people (sowers, reapers, packers, transporters, retailers, and cooks) who put it on our plates.
So when you think about mindful eating, send gratitude to your food and Mother Nature—as well as the human connections that often go unnoticed.
make the connection
It’s all well and good to have these principles for healthy eating, you might be thinking, BUT HOW DO I MAKE THAT HAPPEN? Lucky for you, I have cooking demos that go way beyond cooking as entertainment and introduce you to cooking as a life skill!
In my monthly Fl!p Your K!tchen® Sessions, we dive into food from the perspective of nutrition and meal planning in addition to cooking, so you’ll be able to cook whole foods from scratch on a regular basis, understand portion moderation. The mindfulness and gratitude piece is on you!
As an employer, you can get a group rate for a single workshop or purchase an annual subscription; as an individual, you can register for a single workshop or purchase an annual membership. Any way you slice it, I’ll see you soon!