Thank you for this food we are about to eat.
Many of us grew up with families who began each meal with a blessing. These prayers followed people from generation to generation like an affectionate family member showing up when everyone sat down at the dinner table.
These days, this honoring ritual is largely absent as we pick up food in a bag at a drive-through window, eat from cartons taken directly from the refrigerator without bothering to put the food on a plate or sit down, and spend meal times separated from family members.
When did our connection to the food we eat become so distant and problematic? Many people have a love/hate relationship with food; they disparage particular foods even when they crave them. They say, “I want you—go away!” Doesn’t that seem a bit neurotic? What a mixed message!
A mistreated person often acts out in ways that can cause trouble. I think of food as doing the same thing. It tugs at you when you have other things to do and makes demands that you pay attention to it when you would much rather think of something else.
A perfect example of this is when you are positive you don’t want to eat the ice cream that is in the freezer. The entire time you are thinking this, you get a spoon, get the ice cream and finish all of it!
I created the following exercises to remind myself to maintain a healthy and respectful relationship with the food I eat. As a result, I’ve lost weight and I choose healthier foods. Give it a try and see if it helps you, too.
1. Count Your Blessings
Honor your food and express your gratitude. Do you feel fortunate to be able to afford the food you eat? Is your food nutritious? Does it look pretty on your plate? Tell it!
I admit to complimenting my food. I say, “Wow! You look delicious!” I say, “Thank you so much for being here with me.” I say, “I am so grateful for all of the people who made it possible for my food to be here with me.”
2. Be Aware of Your Senses
Eating is more pleasurable when it is a multi-sensory experience. Use your eyes and notice what is on your plate. Smell the aroma. Chew slowly so you can appreciate the flavors and experience the textures.
3. Appreciate All Food Equally
Don’t treat everyday food as boring and unimportant. Give it the same gratitude, interest and excitement that you offer a favorite meal. It’s natural to ooh and ahh over a favorite birthday dinner. But what about the chicken or salad you eat frequently? Take the time to notice and be thankful.
Arrange it on your plate so that it looks nice. If you have good dishes, don’t just use then for special occasions. Everybody and everything likes to be the recipient of good vibes and positive attention. Appreciated food is more likely to deliver all of its nutrients—partly because you aren’t gulping it down.
4. Feel Your Feelings
Don’t require your food to be a workhorse for your emotions. It wasn’t designed for that job. Feelings are part of the human experience. Don’t be frightened of feeling bored, lonely or sad.
Sit with your feelings rather than fleeing from them. Determine whether you are hungry or bored. This small amount of attention and awareness helps prevent mindless eating.
5. Take the Stress Out of Eating
Be present when you’re eating, and be mindful of the way you talk about food when you’re not. Remember: complaining about bad eating habits doesn’t actually do anything to change them!
When you habitually talk about your discontent, you create an ongoing poor relationship with food. If you were to constantly speak about your boyfriend or wife in this way, you would cause plenty of problems in your relationship.
Instead of dwelling on your problems with food, say something nice about it. For example, focus on the way food fuels your body and allows you to do the things you want to do.
6. Love Your Food
Don’t buy into the idea that if you enjoy food too much, you’ll never stop eating it. Take a chance and see what happens when you love your food. Doesn’t it make sense that just as in any relationship when love and appreciation are expressed a greater sense of well-being follows?
When food is your friend, you can’t help but feel happier. And that is a state of mind that we could all benefit from seeing more of in the world.