Food + Love. I was recently reminded of the healing power of having a meal made and shared with love.
You know, the truly nourishing experience that it is, when you allow yourself to be fully present and engage all your senses in the eating experience. It becomes not just about the food, but the company, the conversations and the surroundings as well.
To me it is such a blessing to be having food and sharing the eating experience with people who not only appreciate the food for its taste and quality, but also from where it has come. The appreciation of beauty, that is fresh colourful ingredients and the gift itself that is in giving, and the blessing that is in receiving.
It had me humbled and reminded that what an lesson in receiving it is to be gifted in this way.
THIS is when food and eating is not all about nutritional value but rather all about Vitamin P – P for Pleasure.
The meal was such a fulfilling experience on every level. A simple reminder of the little things in life to savour, both literally and symbolically.
We may consider LOVE as the ultimate nourishment for our whole selves, and food, of course, is the fuel for our physical existence. Alongside air and water food is something we cannot survive without.
However the dynamic dance between food and love is not always as straightforward as this, though I would like to think it should be, or perhaps at least could be. Though if you have ever struggled with this intricate dyamic, you know…
There is a shadow side of Food + Love.
Sometimes we use food not as a part of a loving experience but rather as a substitute for love.
Like those moments when we use food as the “fix” to sooth a broken heart, a bruised ego or a just as a way to fill the void in our lives?
Somehow this message that food is comfort is reinforced when you start paying attention to what the media is portraying. I’m sure you have seen, just like I have, the images of someone drowning their sorrows with a spoon and a tub of ice cream in front of the telly. I mean, it is a natural thing as the most fundamental part of nurturing a baby is given the breast as both food and comfort.
Thing is though, that when we use food to numb our feelings (or any other substance for that matter), and / or as a way to fill up an internal hole which is not a physical hunger, it may give some short term relief but usually not as a longterm one.
Using food as a substitute for love can have longterm consequences. And not always are these longterm consequences about health impacts either, though it can be a factor that plays a part.
The more immediate consequneces that I am thinking of here is what usually follows eating certain kinds of foods that we may have assigned the label “bad” to; feelings of guilt and shame.
Brené Brown defines guilt as “I did something bad / wrong” and shame as “I am bad / there’s something wrong with me“. Look at this definition, we may realise how counterproductive it is to attach feelings of guilt to what we are eating, and if we go down the shame route, we are all of a sudden skating on thin ice…
How did we get here?? When did we end up with this kind of thought pattern?
This is where I feel opening up some awareness around the subtle messages the dieting culture is imposing on us, becomes very important. That if we don’t eat “clean” we must be eating something that’s “dirty” or bad.
I’ve lost count of how many times in my 20s that I was so entrenched in this kind of thinking. Often feeling disheartened that I could never stick to THE plan, or lose the weight I wanted (so I could finally be happy), when in fact trying to rely on willpower with my blood sugar on a roller coaster all day would make it physically (and mentally!) impossible.
After that one cookie, I’d usually end up having another one and then most of the package because at that point I had moved from feeling guilty about having one into a state of shame.“I’m useless so I may as well keep eating…”
Then I felt even more lonely and sad… Which would continue the cycle of comfort eating. And other times it was the feelings of loneliness that would be the initial trigger. During this time in my life, food was definitely serving as a replacement for love, for me.
Is it possible to break the cycle of using food as substitute for love and arrive at a place where food becomes part of self-love?
I would really like to think so! It may not be an overnight kind of experience, and the journey there may not just be paved with good intention but can also become littered with many blessings of self discovery.
With Halloween just been and the next holiday season only a short while away, it is all to easy to get caught up in “dieting mode”. Restricting and / or feeling guilty about having certain types of foods.
However if you have decided to try stepping off the “dieting treadmill” and are working on healing your relationship with food, then I invite you to be mindful and watch your thoughts with kind non-judging awareness.
Do find yourself feeling guilty after eating sweets / cakes / chocolate?
Do you feel like you need to go on a diet over the next few weeks to get ready for the holiday season ahead, knowing that you may put on some extra few pounds then?
Here’s my ‘two penny’s worth; Please don’t.
Instead of focusing on letting go of certain kinds of foods, focus on letting go of the guilt, so that you don’t let any guilt feed into shame.
Learn to listen to your body and trust it’s wisdom.
What foods make you feel great? What would it look like for you if food and eating formed part of caring for yourself from a place of kindness and selfcare?
Don’t forget that there’s more to food than calories and sugar. And there’s more to eating that worrying about same.
Give yourself permission to;
Let your whole self be nourished by the entire experience of eating food that has been grown with care and cooked with love, and if possible in the pleasure of great company.
THAT is medicine for body, mind and soul. <3
Do you long to let go of obsession around food, eating and weight? Would you like to feel freedom and peace around meals and beyond, but need some help and support to get there?
It would be an honour to walk with you on this path. Please email me HERE to set up a free 30 min consultation to explore how this may be possible for you too.
This month I will talk about the Aspect of FLOW. This Aspect of Health as according to the concept of Food & Spirit™ is the second Aspect and is represented by the colour Orange, (my least favourite colour) it’s connected to the reproductive organs and thus it involves fertility, sexuality and partnerships of two.
The FLOW is where we tie in the emotional and the creativity parts of ourselves.
From a physiological perspective, this Aspect covers the bladder, the kidneys and our pelvis area (which holds all these vital organs as well as the reproductive organs). The large intestine is also included here. In fact constipation can be considered a FLOW complaint. Thing are “stuck” and not moving through. Often people who experience constipation may be holding on to some underlying unresolved emotional issues too.
When we talk about foods to nourish the FLOW we talk about water, healthy fats, fish (water), nuts and seeds (healthy fat), orange coloured foods and tropical foods (which usually have a high water content).
Out of all the 7 Aspects this one is very symbolic (well they all are really, but this one more than some others, I think) and perhaps looking at it in this light makes it easier to remember. Fats, and oils in particular are fluid. Water is fluid and flowing. Our kidneys and bladder is in control of the water regulation in our bodies, and we need healthy fats for healthy cells, healthy reproductive organs and of course essential fatty acids can have a positive impact on our emotions too. Our brain is made up of fat so we certainly need it!
Let’s talk about emotions. Or perhaps calling them e-motions would be better. Well at least it would be better for us if we could just let them flow through rather than getting stuck in them. Easier said than done though… Have you ever had someone say something to you which made you all upset, only to have the scenario playing on repeat in your head, over and over afterwards? I know I have.
Or like how we are often taught or perhaps even told as kids that showing our emotions makes us vulnerable. So rather than letting our tears flow, we try to keep it all in, putting on a brave face trying to get on with things. This may work for sometime but it usually comes back and bites us in another way, sometimes in form of dis-ease and other times as cravings or even outburst of anger if one feels like it’s all over-flowing. And if we don’t let it out in one way or another and instead shut it all off, try to bury it we will also close the door on all the positive emotions to flow through too. This is something Brené Brown talks a lot about in her books. She says ” You cannot selectively numb one emotion. If you shut off one, you shut them all off.”
I think we all have our own “numbing tools” for some it may be drugs or alcohol, for others it’s food, whereas others use busyness, shopping or perhaps even excessive exercising. Anything to take that edge of feeling, when it’s too painful to feel. And sometimes we need to do that, just to survive. The problem is when this becomes something we do all the time. We’re feeling sad, mad, bad or angry upset or any other kind of negative emotion that hurts. It’s not a nice place to be. So we use whatever seems appropriate to take the edge off.
For me, my drug of choice was food. Looking back I’m not sure that when it all started, it was something that I was even aware of that I was doing. I was stuck in a situation which left me feeling sad, hopeless and stuck. And as I couldn’t see a way out at the time, I used food as a way to numb things. I actually think it started off as a subconscious act. To take the edge off.
The thing is though, that if we keep numbing ourselves we are also shutting off the ability to let the light in. To be able to feel happiness and joy. And the other side of the coin is that usually the drugs of choice; food and alcohol at least, also effects our nervous system so from a biochemical perspective we become even more susceptible to feelings of low mood and even depression. A vicious cycle in other words.
Let’s talk about cravings. So many times we eat for other reasons than physical hunger. Many times we eat for purely emotional reasons. I know, because I spent a long time doing just that. It took a long time to wean myself off the impulse of eating just because I was feeling. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one having had this experience either… I’ve seen so many women, but also men, doing the same thing in my clinical practice. It can be an utterly debilitating experience. Stuck in this stuffing-our-emotions-down-with-food cycle.
So what did I do to finally break the cycle and to step off the merry-go-around? I wish I could tell you that I met someone who just waved their magic wand and it was all easy peasy ever after… Not really. But I am here to tell you that it can be done. I’ve done it myself and I’ve coached others to the path of doing the same.
For me the first step was to decide that I no longer wanted to be where I was at. I finally had enough. Let’s call this part acknowledgement. After that, I bought a day-to-day diary and started to write down everything I ate and drank every day, with a few notes to how I was feeling, on occasion. When I started my food diary, I didn’t actually change anything I was doing. In the beginning I simply just wrote. And with my best ability I tried to be as non-judgmental as I could towards myself too. If you’ve never done a seriously to-the-core honest food diary, then I urge you to try it. There are so many things and so many times we eat without paying attention. At. All.
This became my first step to cultivate awareness. I believe that without this kind of insight into what was truly going on, there would have been no possibility of longterm, sustainable change. After all I had already tried numerous diet plans and systems, which I could never stick to. From my new found awareness I finally had a place from where I could start making conscious decisions. This is true power, or empowerment. Once you are aware, every single choice you make is your own. No more driving on autopilot! Perhaps this seems like a scary place to be. But this is where trust comes in. Trust to know that you are capable of making the best food choices for you. Trust that even if you make a choice that you think you may regret later, (and even if you do regret it) you just put trust in that it was a great learning opportunity.
Trust that with this kind of empowerment comes freedom.
Then there’s the emotion and feeling side to the equation of course. If we are to be able to let our feelings flow through, we need to trust that they will do just so. I love reminding myself of the saying “this too shall pass”. Or what the renowned father of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) John Kabat-Zinn says “Breath and let be”. It serves as a reminder that we don’t need to act or re-act to everything we experience. Sometime the best thing to do is to just stay with the uncomfortableness rather than trying to fix it. And when you stay there, you will realise that just like after rain, sunshine always follows. But we must trust that it does, even if in the beginning we don’t necessarily believe that it is so.
So how can we express our emotions in a more healthy way, so that they don’t become stuck and stagnant causing issues in our body and with our health? Creativity! “But I’m not an artist or very artistic”, I hear you say. Something the majority of us will say in fact. Followed by “I don’t have time for that.” Taking time out of our busy, hectic life for some creativity is a bit like schedule in exercise, it is necessary for our health and it serves as a way of refueling the tank, which give you more energy to do all your “must-dos”. Have you noticed all the adult colouring books that seems to be on display everywhere? Someone somewhere is obviously on to something…
And don’t limit your thinking to that being creative is just about writing, painting / drawing or singing and dancing. If none of those are calling your name, then why not get creative in the kitchen, or in the garden? Or go build something with your hands. I was pondering this the other day and though of my dad and brother. They may not being good at drawing or “art” but they are certainly creative as they both love making and building things. They have already built a house and is on to the second one!
In my book, anything that you do which will take you to a state of bliss, to a place where you forget time and space and where you exist solely in the here and NOW, a state of utter FLOW – use that as your creativity.
This month I invite you to take some time to nourish your FLOW. Here are three ways you can do it:
1. Food – Focus on incorporating healthy fats into your daily diet in form of avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil or any other coconut product. Eat some fish (oily fish will give you a two-in-one), if you eat fish. And of course try to get as wide a variety of orange coloured foods as you can in too!
2. Eating – Try paying attention to if you are eating out of physical hunger or if you are eating for emotional reasons. A great question you can ask yourself everytime you reach for food is “Why do I want it?”. Some of the answers that come up may surprise you!
3. Lifestyle – Get creative! What does creativity mean to you? How can you get some more FLOW and creativity in your everyday life? Put your hands in the dirt, bring out a paint brush, try a new recipe, use your camera, or perhaps buy one of those mandala colouring books. Do whatever it take so get those creative juices flowing! You will be duly rewarded – it comes in the form of joy 🙂
Oh and if you don’t believe me or want to take my word for how important it is to bring some creativity back into our lives (for those of us who may have gotten sidetracked on this one) then have a listen to THIS AMAZING podcast.
HOW ARE YOU GOING TO CREATE SOME MORE FLOW IN YOUR LIFE? PLEASE SHARE WITH ME BELOW!
I’d love to know 🙂
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