thoughtful eating

Thoughtful Eating

We take food for granted. 

I know there are people in our country that are hungry. I work with many people on reduced incomes and I see them struggle to make ends meet. Poverty continues to pose a challenge for our country.

Despite this, children and adolescents in low-income families are more likely to be obese than those in high-income families.  This pattern doesn’t hold true for adults and is more likely affected by the level of education. We will look at obesity in a later blog.

Regardless of our socioeconomic status, Americans eat with little thought about the food we are eating. Americans are convenience eaters. We eat in our cars and we eat standing up. When we’re angry or sad, we eat. We impulse eat and snack between meals. We see a candy bar at the checkout lane and buy it and eat it. Even after we feel full, we continue to eat. 

We take our food for granted.

When was the last time you fasted? Skipped breakfast and lunch? When was the last time that you thought about the people that provided, cooked and served you your food? How often do you take a moment and quietly voice gratitude for the food for which you are about to receive? When was the last time that you sorted through the different textures, flavors, and colors while you were eating a meal?  Do you think about the triggers that prompt you to eat? Triggers like feeling down, angry, or anxious. When was the last time that you craved a pastry (that’s always for me) and ate it so quickly that you didn’t even remember eating it? 

Thoughtful Eating simply means, paying attention to what we are eating

 In his book, “How to Eat,” Thich Nhat Hanh offers what he calls “notes on eating.” I’ll share some of them.

  • Nothing comes from nothing. Think about how the bread was made. The fields where the grain grew. The sunshine that bathed the blades of wheat. The farmer that labored to harvest the grain.
  • Your body belongs to the earth. “We eat with care,” writes Nhat Hanh, “knowing that we are caretakers of our bodies, rather than their owners.”
  • Slow down. The author shares that, slowing down and enjoying our food helps our lives take on a deeper quality. You become connected to everything that the food represents.
  • Pay attention to the people that are eating with you. This he calls community-building. Food should bring you closer to the ones you love.
  • Take a moment before you eat and nourish yourself with the breath of life. Breathe deeply. Fill your lungs with the life-giving air around you.
  • Turn off the Television.
  • Become aware when you are full and satisfied with the food you are eating. Then stop eating.
  • Chew your food, not your worries. It’s difficult to feel grateful when your chewing your planning and your anxiety.

These are just a few of the suggestions in “How to Eat.” 

Here are two of mine: 

Prior to eating, reflect on the gift of food. The Stoics practiced reflection to insure they saw the meaning of the events in their lives. They reflected on the mistakes and successes. They wanted to learn from both. 

Reflecting on food can take place as a quiet moment or a prayer. I remember growing up and learning a prayer we called ‘Grace.’ We said ‘Grace’ before eating. Many faith traditions have their prayers. Mine was:

Bless us Oh Lord,

For these thy Gifts,

Which we are about to Receive,

From thy Bounty

Through Christ our Lord, Amen

You may prefer a more secular prayer:

Earth who gives to us our food,

Sun who makes it ripe and good,

Dearest earth and dearest sun,

Joy and love for all you’ve done.

If you’re not satisfied with these, create your own thoughtful prayer.

My second suggestion is to practice fasting. Many, many religious and secular practitioners have been fasting for millennium. I have practiced fasting for many years. I currently fast 3-4 times a week. There is nothing like feeling hungry. I love it. I think it mimics the lifestyle of early humans. It makes my senses more keen. It helps me appreciate food.

I have taken food for granted, but with practice, I’ll learn to savor it and to enjoy the people that I share it with. 


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