So many of us are struggling with how to make peace with food. Here are some practical tips to let the demands go.
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In the last post in this series on how to be at peace as we usher in this new decade full of opportunity, I shared my story and some practical tips to help you find peace with your body. Like so many, my relationship with the food that sustains me has been
abusive complicated for far too long. Slowly, I am realizing that I have approached it from the wrong angle every single time I have decided to “Fix” it. Here is what: the food has never been broken. My mindset could use an adjustment. Interestingly, to make a change that lasts, it’s time to make peace with food.
my introduction to the concept of a mindful meal
A few weeks ago, I stormed into my favorite yoga studio with a swollen, painful foot. I rriiippped the velcro from my heavy, cumbersome walking boot, and reunited with my yoga mat. We were apart for far too long because I wasn’t sure how to embrace the flow and also stay gentle with a foot that couldn’t bear weight. (Downward dog on a foot where the toes can’t flex, anyone?) It turns out, swallowing just a little pride and talking to the teacher about how my practice would look a little different from those around me solved this problem. I don’t know why I waited.
I was back.
This was a special class. It was an Open House for the upcoming 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training, a goal whose seed was planted in my heart over a decade ago. I was ready to learn more.
After practice, those of us interested in enrolling in the program hung around to chat with the gals who would be leading the Winter offering. One thing that was discussed as a requirement was that each day, we would be expected to eat one “Mindful meal.” What did that mean? Someone asked if that meant vegan or clean or in silence or what.
Answer: it would be different for each person. Just be mindful of the food. Consider the sourcing. Be grateful for it. Appreciate the nourishment for your body. Then we were told that this brings up all sorts of emotions for the students in the course.
This shouldn’t really have been a major life moment for me. It just might have been.
Could every meal be a mindful meal?
I was raised eating quite a bit of food from a drive-thru window. We were a family on-the-go. Getting in the car meant swinging by for some french fries, at a minimum. It became a conditioned response. Car = sugar, fat, and salt.
I’m sad to say that this has thus far been a tradition I pass down to my own daughters. The excuse has always been, “We are busy and I can’t cook. Let’s swing by…” Cue the grumpy husband face.
Even at the heights of my food restrictions and brutal eating practices, I’d still make concessions for a small order of french fries. In the days when there was far more month than money, younger me would scrape together coins from around my VW Beetle with the broken everything to order from the dollar menu. Any attempt through the years to dramatically restructure my “Diet” always crashed at the first whispers of the siren song of the golden arches.
Could a mindful meal help me make peace with food? Is the entire key to slow down?
I gave it a try. The answer has been a resounding YES.
The shame surrounding your food is not serving you
When I just make space to think about the food that is entering our bodies, I make choices that are more nutritive than when I excuse my choices as a result of my schedule.
If I can find time to share funny memes on Facebook, I can definitely find time to make peace with food. I can decide that it’s valuable to use more discretion about what that was once “‘Not me is transformed into ‘me.'”
“All the arts are conduits for the expression of this deep human longing for unity, but it is only in the art of food preparation and eating that this oneness is actually physically achieved. This is part of what makes eating such a powerful experience and metaphor: food art is eaten and becomes us. It enters as object and becomes subject; what is “not-me” is transformed into “me.”
― Will Tuttle, The World Peace Diet
And if we are being honest, I have always been so ashamed of my eating habits. There was shame surrounding starvation. There was shame in being an athlete who is also a fast-food junkie. There is shame in my sugar cravings. There is shame in feeding my children convenience foods rather than whole meals because I was discouraged by my kitchen failures (which are plentiful, mind you!)
Why would I continue keeping up habits I found so embarrassing? It’s time for that entire practice to go. Good riddance, Felicia.
Making peace with food means dropping the guardrails
When I was thinking about this, I reached out to a friend who has also been on a mission to bust through disordered eating patterns. I asked my friend, triathlete, and personal trainer Nick Peres of PeresFitness.com what advice he has on how to make peace with food. He said this, “I think it’s not to label food as “good” or “bad.” Food is just that – food. Enjoy all of it. Just make sure you’re being mindful of how much you’re consuming.”
Dang right, my friend.
Just like we need to drop the concept of good or bad with our bodies, the same applies to food. When we find ourselves declaring food to be bad, that brings on the guilt of eating it. Guess what? Your brain wants sugar, salt, and fat. You aren’t bad for eating the food in front of you that also isn’t bad. It might not be most nutritive, but it isn’t bad. The more you restrict what types of foods you can eat, the more you are going to want them. So friends, just eat the food.
Vegan, Keto, whole-Foods-Plant-based…what is right?
Ask twenty people how to eat and get twenty answers.
You might sense a theme here, but my encouragement to you is to drop the label. Just eat real food. In making peace with our food choices, we are freeing ourselves of these terms. We are dropping the rules. Find the food that nourishes your soul when you eat it.
It’s about feeling good about your choices
Does the cruelty an environmental impact of CAFOs mean that you can’t feel grateful when eating conventionally farmed meat products? Then stop eating them. (Hint: this is where I am right now, The exploration has been meaningful to me and I’m always happy to talk about it.)
Maybe eating meat is an important part of your family tradition that brings you great joy and you aren’t interested in releasing it. You might decide that you will source your meat products from local farmers with humane practices and pause for gratitude for the nourishment.
If pausing for a quick word of prayer or thanks before eating grounds you in the experience, make that your practice.
Bottom line: making peace with food just means no longer slamming it down your throat and moving on.