We all have moments when our fears and frustrations rise to the surface. Maybe it’s the anxiety that arises when you think about having enough money. Perhaps it’s the irritability that creeps up around family members that won’t stop bickering, the constant doubts about finding a loving and lasting relationship or frustration about losing the weight you’ve been trying to get rid of for the past five years.
If you’re anything like I used to be, all of this overwhelm and pressure will have you running straight for the cookies or wine to help calm your nerves. But you know as well as I do that the calm you get from any of that is only short term. Instead of actually removing the root cause of the negative emotions, you’ve just suppressed them for a bit until they creep up yet again to restarting the same destructive cycle.
I’ve had so many clients come to me desperate to break free of emotional eating so they could lose weight, feel more energetic and in control of their lives. However, one stressful situation would cause their willpower to go out the window. After finishing up the last of the ice cream, they would load on the guilt and self-criticism, leading to more emotional eating…a brutal never-ending cycle.
During my Ayurveda training with New World Ayurveda I’ve learned some of the most valuable information around food and emotions that has truly changed the way I viewed this relationship. It’s these concepts and ideas that I hope will also guide you to finally coming to a place of peace, love and trust with your body and food.
Emotional eating is actually a good thing. Most of us have been told that it’s a bad thing to connect emotions to food. Food is just nutrition. It’s fuel and nothing more. But I disagree. In fact I think we need to be connecting emotionally to our food. Before you gasp in disbelief, hear me out. Connecting emotions to our food is necessary to developing a healthier relationship with it, just like connecting to our partner is necessary to developing a healthier relationship with that person. Nourishing our body through food is a form of self love. In the same way nourish and nurture relationships with those we care about, we need to do the same with food. How? First, do your best to cook with and eat the highest quality of food. Food carries vibration so the higher the quality, the higher the vibration and healing potential for our bodies. Next, spend more time connecting with your food through cooking. Make sure you’re in a place of love, joy and gratitude as these vibrations will directly transfer to the food you are eating. Lastly, be as present as possible when you eat, really engaging all of your senses. This will enable your mind, body and spirit to feel the satisfaction that will prevent overeating.
Emotional nourishment leads to physical nourishment. Further building on the concept above, when we can be fully present with our food and allow ourselves to enjoy the process without any judgements of “good food” or “bad food,” our bodies are able to properly digest and assimilate the food. When our digestion is operating properly, we come back into balance and are able to heal. The stress that we can cause ourselves through guilt and shame will interfere with this process, potentially leading to digestive issues, weight gain and other serious emotional and physical illnesses. So, no matter what you are eating, whether it’s a kale salad or piece of chocolate cake, release the judgement and allow yourself to fully enjoy and savor each and every bite. This will enable you to create a respectful and enjoyable relationship to food instead of an abusive one. In fact, the number one nutritional principle in Ayurveda is not to count calories, restrict portions, cut carbs, fat or sugar, or go Paleo or raw. It’s simply to just enjoy your food.
In this way, it’s clear that…
Food is not just nutrition. Food is love.
So here’s a quick recap of how to create a more loving and trusting relationship with food…
Only choose the best. When you can, choose ingredients of the best quality — organic, locally grown, humanely raised. Remember, everything is energy, so ingredients that had the best “upbringing” will give you the most love physically, mentally and emotionally. If you can’t afford to get everything organic, start where it matters the most, meats and dairy. Then slowly move to your veggies and fruits.
Create a beautiful, welcoming environment in your kitchen and dining room. Energy plays a role here too. Create a space to cook and eat in that welcomes you. Get rid of junk and clutter. Keep things organized and easy to find, and fill your space with fun gadgets, colors, and images that inspire you to cook nourishing meals. Use your nicest plates, light some candles, put on some music — make it fun and, most importantly, make it yours.
Cook with others. Being in a kitchen with several of the other students in my Ayurveda training reminded me just how fun it is to share the experience of cooking with others. This will naturally create positive vibrations that you will transfer into your food and then into your body.
Engage all of your senses. Take time to connect with your food before eating it. Engage the senses of touch, sight, sound and smell as you cook. Before digging in, look at the colors of your food, smell the aromas, and think about how delicious it will taste. This appreciation and satisfaction you will get through these simple practices will enable you to create a more respectful relationship with your food and your body. You will also prepare your body to digest your meal more efficiently as well.
Eat away from distractions. When is the last time you sat down for a meal without the TV or computer on? This is one of the most common habits of Western society and one of the worst when it comes to creating better health. When the mind is elsewhere, it’s not focused on digesting. You also won’t taste your food as well so you’ll feel less satisfied. Do a little experiment, eating away from distractions for a few days and see how your behaviors around food begin to shift.
Practice gratitude. You don’t have to be religious to say something before eating your meal. Just take a moment and acknowledge the food in front of you that will nourish your body and keep you alive. A simple “Thank you Universe/Nature/Mom/Dad/Uncle George/Sally, for providing me with this beautiful and delicious meal” is all you need.
So here is your assignment for today:
I want to know what your current relationship with food is. Answer these two questions:
1. Do you eat on the go, not paying much attention to your meal? Do you avoid cooking? Do you eat with guilt and shame?
2. What is one small change you will commit to making to create a more loving relationship with food?
Improve your eating habits by reading Eating Mindfully: How to End Mindless Eating and Enjoy a Balanced Relationship with Food
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Note: PLEASE consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.