Has eating become just another way to keep busy?

This article originally appeared in my Holistic Outlook column in Time Times Herald Record.

Why do you eat? Because you need to, sure, but I’m guessing you also eat from habit; to manage stress; to distract yourself from physical, mental and emotional discomfort; for short-term pleasure; and not only for social engagement but sometimes because of social pressure.  The smell, taste and even appearance of food can connect us powerfully with our memories.  All of this makes eating a very compelling and satisfying activity.

Yet most of the time, if you’re honest, you probably don’t even taste your what you’re eating, at least not after the first few bites.  We eat automatically, finishing our plates, snacking when we’re not hungry, grabbing for more, eating unconsciously while we drive, watch TV, sit at our computers, and work. So maybe it’s time to ask yourself: Has eating become just another way to keep busy?

Trust me, I am not one of those spartan people who think we should only eat to live, or that food should be something we do simply to survive. Nope, I’m all for pleasure, variety and the full engagement of our senses.  But most of the time, that’s not what happens when we feed ourselves.  Most of the time, we are barely conscious of the experience.

Most of all, I believe that food should nourish us.  Here is the way the dictionary explains it:

Nourish: verb (transitive) To provide with the food or other substances necessary for growth, health and good condition

So nourishment is not just survival, but “growth, health and good condition”.  Therefore nourishing yourself is not just eating, but eating what supports you in thriving in your own unique and wonderful life.

What if you consciously chose to eat only foods that truly did that? If you chose nourishment, rather than unconscious or habitual eating, what would you do differently?  And how would it make you feel?  Imagine if all day long, you chose foods and beverages that would enhance your health and well-being.  Think of how much better you would feel, not only because you were getting true nourishment, but because you’d feel so good about how and what you were choosing.  And that positive reinforcement helps to create a wonderful feedback loop, so that more and more of your choices would be nourishing.

Try eating only when you can eat consciously. No more mindless snacking.  Instead, allow yourself to fully taste and enjoy your food when you do eat.  You will probably eat less and feel more satisfied.

But nourishment is not just what we put in our mouths.  We can be nourished, or not, by so many aspects of our environment.  Health means not just being free of symptoms, but feeling great: full of vitality, alert, energetic, creative and happy.  Nourishment supports that.

When my kids were young, we used to pray before meals that the food we were about to eat nourish and sustain us. It is my hope that this column gives you the inspiration to better nourish and sustain yourself and your loved ones.

Tip #1: Physical Nourishment
Try screening what you eat with the “nourishment test”.  Does it support your health and well-being, or not?  Not only food, but water, sleep, sunshine, fresh air, and exercise are part of nourishing ourselves.  When we become depleted, we are unable to be as productive in our daily lives.

Tip #2: Emotional Nourishment
You are significantly influenced emotionally by the people you spend the most time with, so choose them wisely. Eliminate or minimize time with “emotional vampires” who leave you drained and exhausted.  Indulge in loving physical contact and affection regularly: hug a friend; pet a dog or cat; hold someone’s hand.

Tip #3: Spiritual Nourishment

Feed your soul: it needs nourishment, too. Stop thinking about what’s wrong with you, or the world, and replenish yourself with the gift of resting in what’s good, and right. Find community.  Listen to music that lifts your spirits.  Pray, meditate, or simply acknowledge all you have to be grateful for.

Link to original article here

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