You’ve heard me talk plenty about nutrition; I’ve praised the healing power of vegetables, fiber, protein, and healthy fats plenty. But what do I mean when I say nourishment? Nourishment is much more than counting up your macro and micro nutrients. It’s a whole body and communal experience.
When we focus too much on numbers, we fall away from the principles of Naturopathic Medicine. We start to treat our food not as a vitalizing part of our everyday life but as a swap for pharmaceutical medications. This is a very one dimensional way of looking at things. Where is the sensual enjoyment of food? Where is the ritual? What about community and our relationship with food and where it comes from? What about individual differences such as genetics, medications, symptoms, preferences, and traditions? These are all components of nourishment.
Try to remember:
Think about your favorite food. Not the one you eat the most of or the one that is most convenient. Think back to an amazing experience with food. Where were you? Who was with you? Who made the food? Now what did you sense? What did you hear, smell, taste, feel, and see? We have many important memories tied into food. That experience you remember was a nourishing one.
Now, think about a food experience you’ve had that was disappointing or just unremarkable. Where were you then and who were you with? Do you know who prepared that food? Can you remember the sensual experience? This memory is probably harder to flesh out. This experience was much less nourishing.
Our relationship with food:
Food can be many things for us. Our relationship with the food is a major determinant in what it will be. Are you like me and sometimes eat without thinking, eat foods that you crave knowing you will regret it later, or sometimes eat out of a feeling of obligation even if you don’t actually need it? Do you sometimes treat eating and food preparation as a dreaded chore? How did things end up this way?
Our society sends us myriad mixed messages:
- Eat what you crave – it’s your life and you should maximize your pleasure
- If you’re overweight it’s your fault – you should exist on celery and fish
- All food is dangerous and full of toxins
- Packaged foods are more convenient and taste better anyway
- Kids won’t eat that
- EVERYTHING in moderation
- This diet will fix all of your problems
- Eat “healthy” and everything will be fine
- There is no research showing that what you eat makes a difference in your health
- Eggs are healthy
- Eggs are dangerous
- Vitamins are useless
- Buy these vitamins and all your ills will end
- Hurry, hurry, hurry – there’s no time to enjoy your food; there are things to do!
It’s no wonder we are overwhelmed and our relationship with food is suffering. Where do we go from here? How does one approach food with a healthier mindset? Let’s start with a simple and free experiment with our next meal shall we?
An experience in nourishment:
The next time you sit down to eat, fully experience your meal. Start by thanking those who prepared it. If you don’t know who, send out a quiet sentiment of gratitude. Next consider where it came from; where did the ingredients travel from, who handled them, did they grow from the earth or were they created another way? Now, who is around you? Are you alone or with others? Acknowledge this.
Next, take a moment to look at your food – is this pleasing? How does it smell, sound, feel? Now taste it, really taste it. Is this pleasing? Do your best to enjoy your meal and feel it entering your body. Give thanks for the nourishment it is providing. After your meal, take note of how you feel. Do you feel better or worse after eating it? Be honest with yourself. Remember many manufactured foods have been engineered to make you crave them making them enjoyable to the mouth but much less so once they hit the rest of your digestive system.
This is an exercise you can repeat a few times a week. There is no immediate goal other than truly experiencing the act of eating. You may notice a desire to make a few changes or notice changes creeping in without you knowing exactly why.
A few nourishing tips:
For those disconnected with their relationship with food, this can be quite the eye opening exercise. A few notes to help you on your way to increasing nourishment in your diet:
- You should feel better after you eat
- You should feel energized and not sluggish after eating
- Issues with diarrhea, constipation, acid reflux, bloating, and abdominal pain after eating are not normal and should be investigated by a doctor who will take the time to listen to you and is educated in nutrition – namely a Naturopathic Doctor.
- Eating in a calm manner and fully chewing your food greatly improves digestion.
- Everyone will have a way of eating that is unique to them and provides them the most nourishment.
- Everyone, even Naturopathic Doctors can find ways of improving or deepening their relationship with food. This is a lifelong experience.
- Food either heals or hurts – there really is no neutral here – but balance can be found.
- It’s impractical to think one can completely change their eating habits immediately without occasionally falling back on old habits. Give yourself a break. Perfection is impossible, but small steps made today will add up to big changes later – Future you will be grateful for your efforts today.
When you are ready to dive deeper into a nourishing lifestyle, I’m here for you. Schedule a visit so we can take a good look at your unique individual needs, goals, and situation.
To our health!