We don’t just eat to sustain ourselves anymore; instead, we eat for pleasure. It’s a custom—a lifestyle. We have become obsessed with food, but that obsession doesn’t have to be bound by fear or uncertainty. Every meal can be a celebration, ensuring the ultimate well-being of both mind and body.
There are a number of ways that we can enjoy a meal in order to benefit both physically and mentally.
We need to start growing and farming our own food and sharing it within our communities through growers’ markets, small businesses and bartering or exchange systems. Veg Exchange is a great example. It’s about reclaiming our access and ownership of food.
We have become accustomed to relying on what is being sold to us by supermarket chains. We no longer eat seasonally, we have a saturation of processed, prepackaged and fast food at our disposal, and we are driven by fads, coercion through advertising and fear. Regaining control and self-determination of how we access food will not only give us a sense of responsibility and peace of mind; it is also an opportunity for exercise, getting out in the fresh air and clean eating.
2. Having a Relationship With Food
We must ignite our passion for creating and consuming a meal. Gardening is not only an incredibly satisfying hobby; it also has immense health benefits too, from stress relief to reducing the risk of stroke.
Cooking and creating a meal from scratch is an art form in itself, exemplified by our infatuation with celebrity chefs. It allows us to explore our creativity and nourishes our propensity to nurture. Tasting different food from exotic cheeses to hybrid vegetables can be a mind expanding adventure and can inspire us to travel or enhance a journey we have already embarked on. Cooking a meal for someone is the ultimate way to show our love.
3. Eating Together
Sharing a meal with someone is an opportunity for socialization and human interaction. If we look to other cultures and how they share a meal we see that throughout human history globally, people make an occasion out of dining and similarly, special occasions are organized around the consumption and presentation of food.
The Chinese, for example have very specific customs associated with eating. From ambiance to seating arrangements, meal times are a way for the society to order itself and the various rituals and practices help to solidify the social fabric and the participants’ relationships. So too around the world, dining etiquette is important and should be observed.
Whether it’s eating with your hands or sitting on the floor, doing it with someone from another country can teach us so much about their culture. Observing our own rituals and formalities, depending on the context of the meal we are sharing can enhance our experience also. It may be a casual lunch in a cafe with a dear friend, a nervous first date in a fancy restaurant or a boisterous family meal; food brings us together.
4. Mindfulness and Joy
Eating mindfully is essential to our health and well being. It’s not just about eating slowly and really tasting our food, although that’s a step in the right direction; it’s about really experiencing food. Touching it, smelling it, examining every aspect of it, taking the time to really be involved in the act of eating. Due to a fast paced lifestyle, we are often forced to eat on the run and many meals during the day can just become a reflex of just shoving something into our bodies to stave off hunger.
It’s important to make space in the day for eating. It doesn’t have to be an exaggerated effort. Just preparing a meal yourself, even if you take it with you to work and then going outside to consume it, or going to a specific place to eat out, exercising mindfulness becomes a habit and even just 15–20 minutes can feel like an hour. The aim is quality of time over quantity.
Look forward to eating and enjoying food. Eating with mindfulness and joy eliminates the stress and guilt we have come to associate with food. Learning to choose a healthy option, but allowing ourselves to indulge in moderation lets us have a balanced diet that we participate in with ease and simplicity. We can eat whatever we want, stop over or under eating and evoke happiness and satisfaction instantaneously. We can pamper ourselves with elaborate table settings or throw a rug on the ground under a tree in the park. Eating all of a sudden becomes a devotion.
5. Baby Led Weaning
If we start the habit of appreciating and relishing food in infancy, it doesn’t seem so daunting as we get older. We see this example in the way Europeans enjoy food. The best selling book French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano became a revolution and epitomizes the philosophy of enjoying food as a lifestyle.
In the same way, the theory of Baby Led Weaning aims to establish good dietary and nutritional habits in babies in order to promote a positive connection with food and the act of eating. Letting a baby feed itself suitable food from the age of six months aids muscle development to facilitate speech and encourages the development and appreciation of different tastes and textures ensuring a varied and healthy diet. There is nothing more satisfying than a child who eats willingly and does not turn every meal time into a battle.
The benefits of enjoying and appreciating meal times and food are life saving and pleasure enhancing without a doubt. Reclaiming our relationship with food will ensure a long and happy life.