Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love. -Rumi
Think for a moment of a food from your past: one that filled you with joy and made you feel wonderful. Maybe it was mac and cheese, your grandma’s lasagna, mashed potatoes and gravy, or homemade ice cream. (For me, it would be something involving pasta.)
Eating comfort foods (every now and then) can be incredibly healing, nourishing both our bodies and our souls, even though our inner critic might try to make us feel guilty.
Food has the power to impact us on a much deeper level than just our physical well-being. What we eat can reconnect us to precious memories, like childhood vacations, family get-togethers, holidays, our mom’s cooking, or our country of ancestry.
Our bodies can actually remember foods from the past on an emotional and cellular level. What we taste and smell has a profound influence on our limbic system, which is the body’s emotional control center. The hypothalamus, which regulates the limbic system, directly stimulates the neurochemistry throughout our bodies.
So when we taste or smell something we love, not only will it bring back happy memories, it actually benefits the health of the entire body, reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. (This is also why essential oils have such a profound effect on our bodies.)
Eating special foods that revive joyful memories connects us to our roots and has revitalizing and nurturing effects that go far beyond the food’s biochemical makeup–this is sometimes referred to as the joy factor. In other words, when we eat in a relaxed, joyful state, every cell in our bodies is nourished by the experience itself. This is why it’s so important to slow down, taste, chew, and savor our meals. The ritual of giving thanks for our food factors into all of this, too.
I’ve definitely found the joy factor of eating to be true in my own life–when I’m on vacation, relaxed, or enjoying time with loved ones, I seem to be able to eat just about anything, feel good, and maintain my weight. However, when I’m stressed out or in a rush, my body rebels and I experience digestive problems and weight gain.
Acknowledging the feelings different foods inspire in us is an important part of cultivating a good relationship with food. This week, we celebrate love; not just romantic love, but the love we’ve been blessed with in all of our relationships. This is the perfect time to stop and think about our relationship with food as well.
Unfortunately, for many of us, this relationship is often far from loving and joyful. In an attempt to control our weight we restrict food, label certain foods as “bad,” or abuse food, substituting it for emotional well-being. In addition, we often fail to appreciate and enjoy food, eating mindlessly, without even tasting what we put in our mouths.
What would your life be like if you treated food and your body as you would treat someone you love – with admiration, enjoyment, generosity, and respect?
The next time you eat, try to stay aware and appreciate the experience and the food without guilt. If you do this at every meal, soon you’ll learn what it’s like to experience the joy factor of food! xo jane