Eating for greater Happiness
At this stage, we are experiencing challenging emotions around many issues in our lives. For some there may be a very real concern about where the next meal is coming from. Even for those of us who do not need to worry about this, the emotions regularly associated with food are often uncomfortable. Why? Michael Pollan claims that nutritionism has a lot to do with it. According to nutritionism, the point of eating is to maintain and promote bodily health, which means there are good and bad nutrients. The labels have changed over time, depending on what trend we are currently following. As a result, anxiety around whether we are eating correctly accompanies our meals. If we cheat and break the rules, we feel guilty. Many of us suffer from Orthorexia nervosa – an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating. Pleasure, joy and gratitude for food have become counter-cultural. Eating for pleasure, as a social act or as an expression of identity are not considered much…
Some of the pitfalls of this approach include that the quality of our food is not discerned. When food is analysed into its nutrient parts, some parts are overlooked or not yet understood. Food can be taken out of its context:
- If I eat a fruit with its peel, my body digests it differently to when I eat it without the peel.
- In the context of my plate, one type of food interacts with other food on my plate.
- The specific environment my food develops in makes a difference to the quality of my food, e.g. the food a cow is given influences the quality of the meat.
- Food eaten needs to be seen in the context of my overall lifestyle.
As a result of nutritionism processed foods may mistakenly be regarded as healthier than natural ones because they have the required amount of a specific nutrient. In reality, the less refined, the better the quality of our food is, but it is much easier to slap health claims on sugary cereal boxes than on raw foods.
How can we reclaim a more positive attitude to eating?
- Give thanks for whatever we have before eating.
- Eat slowly and consciously, no multi-tasking, enjoying the goodness we have been given.
- Use all our senses as we eat…enjoy colour, smell, diversity, textures, tastes. It is amazing how our senses are matched to the variety of foods there are.
- Examine food cravings for associations we have with specific foods. What is it we are longing for? Is there a better way to meet that need?
- Garden some of our own food, whether that is sprouts, lettuce, spinach or something more challenging.
- Eat more creatively. Am I consuming or am I part of the creation process? Cook from scratch when you can, within my time constraints. Eat real food.
- Try one new recipe a week – have fun and learn to cook creatively!
A few words about what we actually buy and eat:
- Buy raw ingredients. Shop the peripheries of the supermarket or go to a farmer’s market or green grocer. Be sceptical of products that make health claims or have ingredients that are unpronounceable or unfamiliar.
- Keep sugar ingestion as low as possible. It definitely affects our mood, giving a quick boost, but then a later crash.
- I have received quite a few messages recently claiming that eating in a specific way will guarantee recovery from COVID-19. Although I am sceptical, I think it is important to eat as large a variety as financially possible since our bodies need various building blocks to keep our immune system healthy and produce the neurotransmitters I wrote about recently. So I am including a list of foods/drinks that have been recognised to contribute towards both. This is not meant as a burden of nutritionism, but as an encouragement for variety! In no particular order: Green tea, meat, dairy, eggs, spinach, kale, lentils, beans, chickpeas, root vegetables, yoghurt, kefir, turkey, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, nuts and grains, red wine, citrus fruits, bananas, coffee, tea, dark chocolate/cocoa, apples, leeks, onions, garlic, asparagus, honey, artichokes, and vanilla.
- Books: “In Defense of Food” by Michael Pollan, “Eat with Joy – Redeeming God’s gift of food” by Rachel Marie Stone, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver
- Food for thought: How your belly controls your brain | Ruairi Robertson | TEDxFulbrightSantaMonica https://youtu.be/awtmTJW9ic8
- “That Sugar Film”