One of the things that I really hope to inspire in other people is being able to see the enjoyment and pleasure in food. Being able to look at food in a different light, and seeing the real beauty in fresh produce, and the richness it can bring to your life in the form of good health, creativity and community.
Why do we not enjoy food anymore?
With the constant barrage of food information and advertising in today’s society, food has become too overwhelming. For the first time in the history of humanity, people are confused, nervous, and even afraid of food – how insane. To be honest, it is no wonder as most of the food information presented over the past few decades has employed powerful scare tactics to sway people in avoiding, or choosing, particular foods and food products. Think about it, the companies that own our food supply are among the largest and most influential in the world, and are able to spend billions of dollars on advertising and research. Food has become an intricate power play between companies to see who can entice the most consumers. In many ways, food is not about wellness anymore, it is about profit. And as the producers of our food get richer, our health gets poorer.
So, what do we do?
There is no doubt about it that a large percentage of the world’s health problems today are diet related. This is probably why we all keep searching for that ‘perfect’ diet which will make us immune to the diseases surrounding us. We have tried to find this perfect diet by looking back in time from two hundred years ago, to two hundred thousand years ago. We have tried eliminating either fat, or carbohydrates, or animal protein. We have fasted, we have detoxed, and we have restricted calories. In fact, it is evident, by all the ‘diets’ currently in vogue, that we see making radical changes to our diet as beneficial*. There are certainly benefits to every ‘diet,’ but let’s take a look at how they weigh up. More on diets here —>
* Of course it is understandable to have dietary restrictions/radical lifestyle changes for personal performance reasons (i.e athlete), because of a chronic disease state, or because of allergies or intolerances.
We should know what foods are good for us. We know portion size is important. We know to avoid processed and packaged foods. We know that we need to eat a combination of protein, fats and carbohydrates; the timing and the amount depend on our own individual experiences. We know that every day we need to learn more and improve on our own health. And finally, but most importantly, we know that we need to enjoy and take pleasure in the food that we eat.
Why is it so important that we enjoy our food?
We all are aware of the detrimental health effects yo-yo dieting can cause. But do we ever think about the underlying, emotional, impact? For instance, is it possible that we are losing quality of life by not sitting back and really enjoying our food? Good health is not only about nourishing our body with good food, but also nourishing our psyche with positive emotions. Is it worth feeling unhappy and completely uninspired by the food you are eating? Does feeling constant guilt about your diet promote harmful outcomes?
To be honest I never even thought about this until a few years ago in a public health lecture when I was asked a very influential question. “Is it healthier to eat a salad and feel unhappy about it, or to eat a KFC burger and feel good about it?” Now, this question caused uproar in a class mostly made up of dietetic students, and at the time I didn’t even consider that it could be argued that the KFC burger might, in that circumstance, have been healthier. And of course it’s not what we would see as a healthy option – but in moderation, the foods that someone enjoys on all levels, such as that KFC burger, could do more good than harm.
The point I am getting at is that we should not feel like food is just a chore. That it is just something we have to do to fuel our bodies. Food should be much more than that. It should be a social occasion, a creative outlet, and a heartfelt experience. Food should be eaten with complete consciousness, and not about whether it is going to make you fat or skinny, or healthy or ill, but conscious in the fact that this it’s a gift from our earth. Be conscious of the fact that you can share the experience and wonder about its history. That you love how it tastes and how content it makes you feel. Because, I believe that if we occasionally indulge and mostly eat good foods we actually enjoy, our health will improve!
And this includes not feeling guilty about those chocolate biscuits on the weekend, or that ice-cream for dessert last night. Don’t feel so bad about those occasional indulgences, relish in the enjoyment that that little treat gave you. You have already eaten it, and no amount of guilt is going to change that.
We shouldn’t feel the need to live our lives by what the scales say. We should live our lives fully!
Food is essentially only a fuel source, but we are highly complex organisms, and we need it more than just to keep our motors running. Food is love. It is a gift. It is a social experience. It is nourishing. It is altruistic. And in Australia, there is an abundance of it, so ENJOY!!!
In conclusion, I believe we should all just embrace the art of eating sensibly. Eat a balance of all foods. Eat a healthy amount. Eat foods for you, and not to please anyone or anything (those nagging scales), else. And finally, eat enjoyable foods for a richer and healthier life.
Your questions, comments, arguments and praise are more than welcome!