Friend or foe. Ally or enemy. Food is a relationship that we experience every day. How we view food determines whether it is a positive or negative one. What I want to challenge you to do today is have, as my sister would say, the DTR (define the relationship) with food.
Many messages we receive about food and nutrition have to do with negative consequences; sugar and fat increase obesity and heart disease risk, salt increases blood pressure, the trans fats that were once thought to be healthier than saturated fats are actually the fats we should try to decrease the most.
I am not saying there is no role for this information, it is important to raise awareness of nutrients linked to disease risk to help people make healthier choices. However I think that we can get too wrapped up in the negative. We start to view food as something that is out to harm us rather than the very substance that physically nourishes us and can offer joy and celebration.
What if we focused on making our food choices for positive reasons. Exploring new produce because it is fun, delicious, and can support local farmers. Making more food ourselves and with our children because we recognize it is an important skill and also creates opportunity for community with others. Trying to season dishes with herbs and spices rather than just salt because it opens a world of flavour we have yet to discover. Eating more fibre-rich foods because we want to treat our colon and arteries. And when you indulge in a treat, you choose to do it because it is delicious and brings you joy rather than associating it with guilt and shame.
This begs attention to the “why” of choosing to eat. In my post on sugar, I talk about the complexity of our food choices because not only do we eat for sustenance, but also for cultural, social, emotional, financial, and many more reasons. Part of having the DTR with food is raising self-awareness of what your relationship is founded on. Often times we are not eating for nourishment, cultural, social, or positive emotional reasons. Also, it is easy to eat way more than intended in social and positive emotional circumstances because we are distracted and not really enjoying the food we are consuming. Here are two questions to ask yourself:
· Am I hungry, or am I angry/lonely/bored/sad/tired…? Perhaps there is an activity better than eating to help in this situation. Try calling a friend, taking a relaxing bath, reading a good book, having a nap, going for a walk, drawing a picture, do a Sudoku, making a mug of tea, or another activity you enjoy. Save food for the moments when eating it is truly going to make you feel good (not guilty) not only for the next 5 minutes, but for the next hour and beyond.
· Am I enjoying the eating process? This is useful to ask in social settings and at everyday meals. Take time to eat slowly, enjoy the wonderful flavor and textures the food has to offer. Make note of how it makes you feel. Eating slowly and mindful will not only bring more joy to your eating experience, but also help you recognize when you are full.
At the Complete Plate, we want to help bring the joy back into cooking and eating. Part of this is fighting against fear mongering around food and helping you understand food facts to feel confident in your choices. My hope is that through this you will gain a friend in food.