Feel That Meal!
Do you love what you eat?
Published: December 20, 2012
Eating fills our base need for sustenance, but at the same time, it can be a gateway for mystical transformations. Surely you’re familiar with the old adages, “You are what you eat” and “Your body is your temple.” But it’s not just what you eat that makes a difference; it’s how you eat that can be a pathway to enlightenment. Savoring the way you approach your food and deeply enjoying its textures, flavors, and aromas can open the door for miracles to abound.
Every day, it seems, there’s a new study, newspaper article, or post on a social media site about the “right” things to eat, but rarely do we talk about how to eat. To be healthy in mind, body, and spirit, it’s essential to be spiritually connected to the food you eat and to relish the experience of eating. Understanding how to eat is just as important—sometimes even more so—as what to eat.
If while you’re eating a meal you feel afraid that the food is going to clog your liver, make it hard to fall asleep, make you feel sluggish, etc., etc., you’re not just ingesting nutrients, you’re also ingesting fear. Do not eat fear. If you feel guilty whenever you eat a hamburger, for example, this is a kind of “eating fear.” It damages your immune system whenever you eat something while feeling even a slightly negative emotion. If you’re eating a hamburger, eat it. Enjoy it. Relish it. Your body will thank you for “eating joy.”
No matter what you eat—a cheeseburger or celery sticks—it’s important to eat what you love and love what you eat. This, of course, doesn’t mean eating chocolate cake exclusively or completely avoiding vegetables or whatever it is that you’re less keen on eating, but it does mean that it’s a good idea to enjoy whatever you eat, no matter how decadent or how healthy. Believe it or not, your body knows how you feel about your food and will metabolize it differently based on your mood and your feelings about what you’re ingesting.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the French Paradox? The traditional French diet is laden with butter and cream, among other rich and indulgent delights. On average, however, the French tend to be pretty healthy and die of heart attacks at about the same rate as Americans, who are raised with a fervent belief that these foods are potentially dangerous. Although there are many possible reasons, one argument supporting this paradox is that the French enjoy their food. In France eating is a revered experience to be savored. Researchers have found that the French people’s lack of food anxiety (combined with smaller portion size) is a large factor in their ability to consume rich foods without detrimental health risks.
Paul Rozin, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, found that when asked about certain foods, the French generally use words like celebration to describe cake or meal to describe an egg, whereas Americans, especially women, are more likely to use a word like guilty for the cake and cholesterol for the egg. According to Rozin, Americans think more about the nutritional components of food and how they react in the bloodstream, while the French focus more on the experience of eating. Believe it or not, the American fixation on calories, carbohydrates, and fats can actually adversely affect not only your experience of food but also how it reacts in your body.
Nutritionist and psychologist Marc David says that if you’re happy and delighted to be eating your favorite flavor of ice cream, for example, your hypothalamus will actually send happy messages to your organs. This will help you metabolize the ice cream and burn the calories more efficiently. He says that a healthy attitude toward the ice cream will actually stimulate the release of the thyroid hormone, which in turn jump-starts the digestive hormones.
This means that the more you enjoy your ice cream and the less you worry about fat content, cholesterol, sugar, or whatever else it is that may cause anxiety (just as with the earlier example of the hamburger), you’ll actually digest it better and make better use of the calories. Leading nutrition psychologists have found the converse to be true as well: negative thoughts and emotions can adversely affect digestion. If you’re stressed when you’re eating—not just about the food you’re eating, but also about anything in your life—you’ll not adequately absorb the nutrients from the food you consume. The more you slow down, breathe deeply, and enjoy the joys and pleasures of nourishing your body, the more nutrition and joy you’ll gain from your food, no matter what it is.
In no small way, when you eat joyfully, you bring more joy into your life. When you savor your meals, you savor your life. And when you’re accepting of the food you eat, you’re more accepting of yourself. As strange as it might sound, when you’re filled with love, joy, contentment, or calm during your meals, the food you consume is also filled with that energy. The more you eat what you love and love what you eat, the more you harness the amazing power of the mood-food connection, which can lead to tremendous breakthroughs not just in your diet but also in your life.
Denise Linn, the best-selling author of 16 books, has researched healing traditions from cultures around the world for more than 35 years. As a renowned lecturer, author, and visionary, she regularly gives seminars on six continents, and also appears extensively on television and radio shows.
Meadow Linn, the co-author of Quest and The Mystic Cookbook, received her bachelor’s degree from Williams College and her master’s degree in French Cultural Studies from Columbia University.