Eat What You Love
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Mindful eating. Emotional eating. What are they and why do you need to overcome any barriers to nourishing your body with beautiful, whole food that tastes great and helps you feel fantastic?
Recently I read, enjoyed, and now heartily endorse When Food is Food and Love is Love by Geneen Roth. The author wrote something that confused me at first. She recommended to her readers that they only eat food that they loved. And that they do not eat food that they don’t love. As one who has a very pleasant, often sensual, sometimes sublime experience eating beautiful and nutritious food, I wondered why in the world anyone would eat something that she did not enjoy. Thanks to Roth for prompting this inquiry. It has raised my awareness and, I hope, will raise yours as I discuss this with you here. I am no longer confused, and I will share my enlightenment with you now.
First, I’ll tell you some examples of how you might find yourself eating something that you do not like. And then after that, I will show you some simple strategies you can implement right away to do what I teach my clients and students. Namely, to fall in love with food that is good for you and to nourish your body through the sacred act of eating and drinking. And last, I will describe to you what the real, life-changing health and body benefits are that this can bring you. If you are unsure why it can be transformational for you to only eat what you love, read on, dear reader.
- If you are in a social situation and feel obliged to eat or drink because of your perception of other’s expectations of you, you might end up with things in your mouth that do not please or nourish you. An example is if you had one glass of wine and you heard yourself say in your mind that you have had enough. Your body spoke to you and you had an experience of being satisfied. It is possible for you to override that message from your body in exchange for complying with peer pressure because someone told you how great this new chardonnay is and you ought to try it. Here’s another example. If the hostess made pumpkin cake and you just don’t like the taste of pumpkin, you might find your mouth filled with a piece of cake that is not delicious to you, but you did it to please the hostess.
- If you are overly stressed and the main objective is to shove something in your mouth, your decision making might be compromised. Sadly, I have heard from people that when they are on a food rampage, it is more important that they eat something right away, than it is to wait and consider what food would be nourishing and delicious. This is when a loaf of bread or jar of olives can disappear before you had the chance to even ask if you are hungry. This was me in my twenties. If you feel an urgency to use food to tamp down your emotions, there is a good chance that your standards will be lower than when you are feeling calm and relaxed. If you find yourself shoveling food into your mouth, that is a good sign that you are “stress eating.”
- If you use food to compensate for tiredness or boredom, you might “just grab something.” Here again, the refined discrimination that goes into making conscious choices about flavors and types of food might be absent. In this case, five minutes after you inhaled your food, or if you were multi-tasking when you ate, you might not even remember, or have a vivid experience of what you just put in your mouth. This is a big clue. Food will give you a pick-me-up if you are feeling tired. And it might appear to assuage boredom. However, in the sense of providing your body with nourishment, at times like these resting and finding some engaging activity respectively would be more in line with taking care of your biological needs.
- On occasion, you can let someone else make your decision for you. Recently my cousin was urging me to come for dinner. He wanted to serve me a dish that, in his words, had just a little bit of fish in it. He asked me if I would enjoy that. Not wanting to make a big deal out of this, I answered simply that I normally choose not to eat fish. He pushed back, telling me that it was just a little bit, that it was a delicious dish, and a little fish wouldn’t hurt me. I would characterize this particular dilemma as when someone tries to undermine your values or choices.
Each of these examples comes in many shapes and sizes.
Do you recognize any of these potential predicaments in your own life?
Everything about making conscious decisions about food that is delicious and usually nutritious will help you become a happier and healthier person. I love whole, fresh, beautiful food that, after I eat it, leaves me feeling comfortably satisfied in my body and so happy with the whole experience. To this point, it is useful to remember that putting something in your mouth that either does not taste good, or you simply did not want to eat is woefully unsatisfying.
Eating like this will leave you feeling more depleted, rather than energized and nourished. Ironically, eating food that you do not like is linked to wanting to eat more.
When I describe it that way, does this encourage you to bring more consciousness to your choices and behaviors around food? I hope it does.
- In social situations, I recommend a personal rule. It is that you are the boss of what you eat. No one has the authority or the influence to make food choices for you. Yes, you will need to practice this. Spouses, co-workers, friends might say things and do things that steer you away from staying connected to your body’s preferences. Learning how to say “no thank you” is worth practicing. Being gracious, such as “That’s a beautiful dish you made, but I think I’ve had enough” is socially acceptable. One of my clients practiced letting his mother-in-law know that he would not be having her store-bought cake. She was originally offended, but she got over it quickly. And he was thrilled for asserting his own healthy choices.
- This is the umpteenth time I have written about eating and stress because it is a topic we can all relate to. First and foremost: When you are totally stressed out is the worst time to eat. That can become your personal mantra. When your body is overwhelmed with stress, your body is crying out for soothing, nourishment, rest, comfort and other ways to unwind. (I spoke about this at a talk titled Unwinding from Stress.) Recognizing this message and giving your body the comfort your body is asking for will become among your most significant spiritual and health practices. I have my practices, and they may be different from yours. I rely on meditation, yoga, exercise, walking my dogs, talking with my husband, working in my garden, reading and listening to books, online puzzles, experimenting with new recipes, and getting plenty of rest as ways to feel calm and at peace. But the point is, what are your go-to solutions to help you feel soothed and centered? When the stress does hit the fan, I have learned to turn to any of the activities I mentioned to recreate the positive state I enjoy in my life. Does this inspire you to do the same?
- Regarding tiredness and boredom, it is useful to realize that we can think we are hungry when in fact, we have tricked ourselves by thinking about food. Tiredness, boredom, and even thirst can masquerade as either hunger or the desire to eat. I can make it sound simple, which is to practice feeling your body and recognizing when you are hungry. If you are, eat. If you aren’t, inquire what your body is asking you for. A woman in my Vitality Club recently tried this experiment. She wanted to eat, wasn’t sure that she was hungry, and wondered if she was actually thirsty. She discovered that a big glass of water satisfied her completely and she was able to get back to work completely free from distractedness toward food.
- When my cousin seemed intent on getting me to agree to eat fish, I simply told him that I preferred not to. I avoided a debate. He pushed and I noticed how he was trying to get me to change my mind. I told him I’d bring a salad and I was sure the meal would turn out to be lovely. And it was. Recognizing how others might want to assert themselves between you and your standards for quality and quantity of food is a big step. My father used to challenge my daughter in her decision to become a vegetarian. This was about twenty years ago. Fortunately she did not allow him to make her decision for her. Octavia is an animal lover, eventually became a vegan and is thrilled with her lifestyle and food choices. Adhering to the standards that you choose for yourself can be a huge add-on to your healthy choices and lifestyle.
What is the big reward here? Each time you eat food that provides you with nourishment, that tastes fantastic, and that leaves you feeling happy and full of vitality, you are on a beautiful track. If you stick to this, then your ability to discriminate becomes refined. When eating becomes a celebration of your feeding your body that which helps you feel and look fantastic, you may find that you never want to turn back. This becomes the way it is and some of the old habits recede to the past, where they belong. Plus, the “old way” of eating becomes unacceptable. No offense intended, and I can cop to this myself from my own past, but it really is gross to stuff our faces with awful food that we can’t taste because our bodies are freaking out with stress or because we caved to someone else’s values. My point is that with patience, over time, you can grow to never wanting to do this. It is too heavenly to make conscious, loving, deliberate choices around what to eat than to settle for anything less.
My husband and I usually share three meals per day when our schedules permit. Our refrigerator contains whole plants, fresh sprouts that I grow myself, a variety of nuts, delicious homemade sauces such as the ones in the How Not to Die Cookbook by Dr. Michael Greger, frozen bananas and blueberries for yummy shakes, homemade “nice-cream” from Greger’s book, and other vitality-filled delicacies. We celebrate life and give thanks with every single meal that we share.
You might not eat how we do, but surely you can move your needle toward recognizing what your body needs, and when it is food, making choices that are pleasing. This is part of the Health Matters message to love your body and get your body to love you back.
A long time ago, I suffered from a raging, life-threatening eating disorder. I was quite literally insane around food and that is no exaggeration. Now, decades later, it astonishes me to realize that I did not love what I ate back then. Even though I ate unbelievable amounts of food, it was more like taking drugs than anything about nourishing my body or savoring tastes and flavors. I am asking you to join me in celebrating food for its sacredness. That what and how you choose to eat will have everything in the world to do with enjoying your life, your health, and the vitality that comes from honoring your body.
Rosie Bank is Board Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and the founder of Health Matters Coaching. She is the author of the book, Health Matters. Rosie is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and is certified by The Center for Nutrition Studies (e-Cornell) in Plant Based Nutrition. Rosie is an international speaker, blogger, and the founder of Health Matters podcast. She is certified as a Nutrition and Wellness Consultant through the American Fitness Professional Association and as a Nutrition Advisor through Sanoviv Medical Institute. Rosie founded The Vitality Club in Brentwood, CA in 2018.
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