The subject of food is a wondrous topic for debate and discussion, since food is relevant to all of us. People eat food for many different reasons: nutritional, emotional and even social. Within these motivations is a goldmine of information for raising our consciousness about food. Is food my friend or my enemy? What is driving me to eat? What is my soul hungry for? What do I truly need? Ultimately, what we eat is a personal choice for each of us.
Our food choices and motivations for eating can have a positive or negative effect on our health, especially over time. There is an old saying, “eat to live, don’t live to eat.” This adage warns us that eating can take over the focus of our lives, rather than choosing to enjoy food as a form of nourishment to fuel our energy. When a person becomes obsessed or compulsive in their thinking about what foods they eat, then unacceptable foods may be perceived as “the enemy.” Mental judgments about foods can create so much stress in the body/mind complex that they ignite fear in the system, which may compromise the body’s immune functioning. Food then becomes a foe rather than a friend. This belief that certain foods are shameful or forbidden can be handled in a more positive way. Consider my friend Leela, who eats for nutritional reasons.
Leela was diagnosed with breast cancer a few years back. She had to have surgery and follow up physical therapy. As soon as she received the cancer diagnosis, she started researching how to improve and change her diet to be more life sustaining rather than eating a cancer-inducing diet. She took responsibility for her future by eating consciously. This new regimen encouraged health and wellness by eating living food. By eliminating sugars, fats, GMOs, meats, dairy and processed foods, and eating fresh organic vegetables grown locally, she came alive again. She eats organic food now and takes a myriad of herbs and supplements, drinks life enhancing green drinks, and carries filtered water with her. I have been at a couple of social functions with Leela, and observe her when she cannot get the foods she prefers and instead, has to eat non-organic food. When this happens, I observe her blessing the food and asking for her body to be rejuvenated from it. She allows the light of consciousness to guide her to eat mindfully, rather than worrying that pesticides from non-organic carrots are going to kill her. She laughs and says, “The fear of food is more harmful than the food choice itself, so let’s just enjoy it!”
Emotional eating is a common practice for many of us. In this case, food often vacillates between being the best friend or the worst enemy. Emotional eating can include: dieting, over-eating, under-eating, bingeing, purging or eating compulsively. During times of stress, food may be the one friendly comfort that is available and handy. However, using food as a tool to numb our feelings doesn’t enhance our wellbeing. It may lead us into a cycle of restricting food through the week only to binge on pizza and rice dream over the weekend. Instead of food being a friend and healthy companion through our lives, it becomes the enemy that must be defeated. Consuming food rather than dealing with uncomfortable emotions is a pattern that we can change over time. Eating mindfully starts by asking, “What am I truly hungering for?” Maybe a walk and a talk are more aligned with our emotional wellbeing.
How about social eating? Eating in restaurants with friends is a frequent social activity. Since healthy choices are limited in many restaurants, these times call for creative ingenuity to adapt what is on the menu to our particular dietary needs. Some restaurants are OK with this and others frown upon changes to the regular menu. I go to a Thai restaurant regularly with friends and order steamed broccoli and brown rice with a fresh veggie roll, rather than rich, spicy dishes. When the food arrives, everyone is happy with the meal they chose and nobody seems to care that I am eating differently. We socialize at restaurants to visit and share our lives with each other. Food is simply the conduit for that to happen. We can choose to order foods that work for us without compromise. This habit has helped me relax around food and eat things that I know will make me feel nourished and alive.