Nothing brings a group of folks together like breaking bread together. The consumption of food is ingrained in every culture that has ever existed. It’s one of our most essential needs for survival. The hunting and gathering of resources is how we define who we are. Our lives are usually designed around our next meal. We’ve even come up with catchy phrases to describe our irritability when we don’t have enough of it (Hangry). So with this biological need, how much do we pay attention to what we consume?
A timeline of our food history would show how we have gone from eating our food mostly raw to cooking almost everything in site. Early humans had to figure out what foods were needed for our survival and what foods we needed to avoid. Keeping documentation of this information proved vital for our advancement. Today we’ve become slightly lazy in our understanding of food. It seems to be an afterthought, until we get much older in life. Until a medical doctor tells us we need to change, we see no issue.
Most of us live in a more privileged society than our ancestors. We have the luxury of not being slaves to our appetites. We can make conscious decisions about what we put into our bodies. It’s become trendy to tell others what diets we have taken up. Our diets can be shaped by our cultural upbringing, athletic and body goals, and access to certain resources. The social network around us can influence our food choices. Ever been shamed for ordering a salad at dinner? Or how about not finishing the food that’s on your plate? Trust me I’ve been there.
Mindful eating is a way to observe your eating habits and for you to become aware of what’s going on in your body. There are a bunch of commercials and ads out there to persuade you into eating food that is not meant to treat your body well. With mindful eating you’ll cut right through the bull and make informed decisions about how you fuel your existence.
Most of my childhood I didn’t really have a ton of guidance when it came to food. Anytime I ate a vegetable it came out of a can. Honestly most of the food I ate was once frozen or came out of a can. There was usually meat in everything, including the vegetables. Most things came fried and eating until you were full/stuffed was encouraged. Because I’m naturally slim there was never any concern. I was also a pretty active kid playing outside and such. So until I got into my later 20s did I really start noticing what I was eating. As a teen I could eat Chickfila everyday with no issues. I would just burn through everything during basketball practice and still have abs. That’s a thing of the past. My metabolism has slowed a bit and I’m def not as active as I used to be. I had to make minor adjustments to my diet so that I don’t over indulge myself. Now I find myself eating foods that I never tasted as a kid. Like eggplant. No clue what that was when I was a kid. I still don’t have a great system of eating. The creed that “If it’s free it’s for me” is still a law I live by. But I’ve definitely tamed it a bit. I still have my moments where I can go through three bags of Doritos with no thinking at all.
To get a different perspective I had a friend guest write her experience with food. Check out her blog (www.rootedmagic.com) whenever you get a chance.
Emily’s Story: I decided to become vegetarian about 11 years ago when I was 15 years old. I watched a single video on factory farming and it completely changed my life. For the first few years, I was pescatarian, but then decided to cut fish out of my diet as well. I was the first person in my southern white family to stop eating meat. My cousins soon followed suit, and now most everyone in my family is following either a vegetarian or humane path. At least once a year I discover something new that I want to cut out of my diet in order to continue to stay true to my values, such as gelatin, certain additives, rennet… I’ve considered becoming vegan, and even tried it for a month or so at a time, but haven’t yet committed to that lifestyle. However, I tend to prefer nut milk, coconut yogurt, and other dairy substitutes to keep around the house, and I always search for either humane or local eggs. As I grow older, I find myself becoming more and more contemplative about what I put into my body. I spend more time in the garden, at farmers markets, and cooking healthy meals at home. I’m even starting to learn to preserve and can my own garden veggies. I’ve never regretted my decision to become meat-free, and it has never been difficult to maintain. I’ve read that statistically, once you hit the eleven year mark, you are likely to remain vegetarian for life. Looks like I’m here to stay.
As you can see there is no one way to go about eating. As you live and learn you’ll make transitions. You are not the same person from day to day, so there is no way that your diet could be too. Your diet is vastly different now then when you were 3 years old. As we age our bodies will require different types of nourishment. Tuning into our bodies and connecting will help notify us of these necessary transitions. So it’s critical to not get attached to one style of living or eating. Your growth is a continuous process so be gentle with yourself as you strive forward.
If you’re looking to get educated about food I suggest checking out the many documentaries on Netflix. Watching those documentaries sparked my interest years ago and I’ve only recently begun to pay closer attention to how my food is cooked and prepared. In Defense Of Food is a documentary that I just watched and it has completely changed how I view the world. Check out Libuse Binder’s Ten Ways to Change the World in your Twenties for environmental insights about eating and supporting local farmers. The book talks about many topics that helps you stay engaged in what’s happening in your world. And you don’t have to be in your 20s to benefit from the information inside. As far as planning your meals and such, I suggest being more intentional about your meal planning. Plan out a few days to help you get started. This way you’re not falling into old habits when you don’t have an already set time about what you’re going to eat. If you’re going to a restaurant, do your research first. Look at the online menu and pick out what you’re going to order before you get there. Try to hold true to your schedule. Surprise get-togethers will come up but if you develop a steady practice of planning you’ll be able to handle those encounters better.
As stated before, I’m nowhere from being where I would like to be in my mindful food consumption. Everyday is a constant battle with what I’ve learned as a child, to the influences of the media, and the new habits I’m forming now. Don’t lose sight of your goals. As you chip away daily at them, realize the good merits you’re exhibiting by giving a damn about your health and the environment. Have fun and be blessed on your journey. Metta.