Thursday, February 12, 2015

10 Components To Developing A Healthy Relationship With Food

While most of us would argue that we eat to live, the reality is that most of us live to eat.
We spend a quarter of our life thinking about, shopping for, feeling, cooking, baking, roasting, burning, biting, chewing, tasting, gulping, ingesting and digesting food.

Clearly making food is not just another mundane path to everyday survival, like consuming oxygen. It takes up a lot of mental energy, and having healthy thoughts about food is important for our minds, bodies and higher consciousness.

My journey with food has been very special. There are a lot of good habits, practices and rituals that I have learned, imbibed and embraced over the past few years. This might have a lot to do with my job as a TV producer, where for the past three years I only made food-related programs – a fabulous opportunity to live, breathe, and eat food!

I have had my own eureka moments, moments of silent awakening and also of celebration with the everyday business of eating.

Today I see my grub in a new light. This has helped me increase my productivity, improved my quality of life and of my relationships, and increased my appetite for all of life’s experiences. These lessons are simple, which is why perhaps we overlook them so often. I want to share my happiness with you with these top ten components of developing a healthy relationship with food:

1. Be Grateful For Every Morsel

Do not take a single bite for granted. Every time you sit down to eat or grab a burger to go, or order a scrumptious meal from your favourite restaurant, take a moment to thank the Universe, the creator, the life force, or whoever/whatever you believe in. If you don’t believe in anything or anybody, thank yourself. Each bite is precious. You are blessed to get food at a time when you are hungry, to feed the fire in your belly. This is your life source, your sustenance. Please do not take it for granted; put aside a moment at each meal for this thought. You’ll be amazed at how much gratitude enhances your eating experience!

2. Switch To Vegan / Vegetarian

Try this for a few weeks and see how your system responds. I was a happy meat eater until I took the big plunge and I haven’t looked back since! You feel more agile, light, loving and happy. You will be able to wake up earlier, your mind will be less noisy, and your new food palette will offer a world of colour and wellness. Top sources for protein, vitamins, minerals, micronutrients, and water are found in vegetables and fruits.

I am not going to talk about reducing global footprint, less pollution, or other health problems such as cholesterol, obesity, and acne – though of course these are reasons enough to stop eating meat. And while eating a strictly raw diet might be too much of a jump for many people, particularly those new to this way of eating, vegetarianism is a gift to yourself. If you are very concerned about your food seeming bland by comparison, buy some vegetarian/satvik cooking books. You will discover a whole new natural world filled with incredibly complex flavours, textures, and colours.

3. Cooking With Consciousness

This is by far the most important.  Food nourishes you. If a plant does not get enough water or sunlight, it might still survive, but what’s going to happen? There is a difference between surviving and thriving. Similarly for humans, while all of us will perish one day, it’s the quality of the life that we live which matters. Simply put, you are made of energy and so is food. The kind of food you eat will have an effect on your body and mind,  so practice cooking with consciousness.

This has a few simple principles – Treat your kitchen like a sacred place. Keep it clean, ventilated, and loved. When you cook, think beautiful thoughts. Think of how the food is going to nourish you. If this is too difficult, simply put on relaxing music or chants. In ancient India, people used to chant ‘shlokas’ or hymns while cooking. Furthermore, cooks would enter the kitchen after a bath to clear their bodies and minds. Food was first offered to ‘God’ and then eaten as sanctified ‘prasadam’. This practice energizes your food. If you have seen Dr. Emoto’s experiments with water you definitely know what I am talking about! Sending good energy to your food while cooking will help your food not just fill your belly but nourish you. Try this one day and see how you feel.

4. Eating As A Ritual

Eating isn’t just another chore. Make this a ritual and enjoy it every day. See it as ‘time to yourself’ where you will not think about anything, switch off your phone or put it aside, put away all other distractions, and then savour the food. Make your own little customs – designate a special place for this ritual, sprinkle some water around the plate (this was a popular cleansing ritual practiced in ancient India), eat in a plantain / leaf, drink a little holy basil soaked water, sit straight, play some soothing music, or do whatever it is that makes you feel good about your food. Put this time aside for celebrating yourself by nourishing your body with good food, love, and happy thoughts.

5. Chew. Chew. Chew

I haven’t made this a part of the previous point for a reason. This is way too important to be grouped with anything else. There is an ancient wisdom which I’d like to share – we have 32 teeth to chew every morsel 32 times before we eat it. Why make your intestines do the work of your teeth? Chewing is also therapeutic only if it is combined with relaxing thoughts. If done otherwise, eating can become very stressful, because you are putting negative energy into the process. So every time you chew choose to thank the universe or consciously tell your mind that the food is going to help you relax, make you more productive, or improve your cognition.

6. Hydrate Your Body

Your body is 70 percent liquid. We have all heard this fact. But many of us are unaware of the fact that lack of water actually wreaks havoc on the body, or don’t know why this is the case. The number 1 reason for headaches is lack of water. Not having enough water can hamper your ability to think clearly, cause feelings of anger, helplessness, and anxiety, as well as contribute to sleeplessness and general unhappiness. It is also a major culprit behind poor digestion and feeling hungry.

Drinking enough water is such a simple to solution to so many bodily woes, yet many of us are completely unaware. This is because many big pharmaceutical companies are happier selling their pills than offering a simple, natural tip – drink water! Hydrating ourselves is pretty easy: drink at least 3 litres a day, making sure this isn’t immediately before or after your meals. Many of us just forget to drink enough water, myself included! I have a water alarm that rings every half an hour, and I highly recommend you download this wonderful app. Otherwise you can just keep a bottle of water in every room, your desk, garden, car, gym bag, or wherever you spend your time.

7. Go Organic

This is a completely bastardized term – many products claim to be organic, but often they are not. Organic products are 3 times more expensive than their poison-infused counterparts. But here’s the deal – too many people are busy counting calories and too few are counting chemicals. We don’t blink twice before buying a cup of coffee at Starbucks or spending 20$ for a meal at a regular restaurant, but organic food feels too expensive. Add this apathy to the fact that there are numerous ads for pricey eateries and coffee houses, but practically no advertising or social propaganda to ban non-organic food, and the results are devastating.

It’s time to make that plunge. Switch to a complete organic lifestyle. If it’s too expensive, grow veggies at home. Tomatoes, chilli, mint, gourds, lime, holy basil, carrot, radish, and beetroot are growing at my home right now, and it occupies less than 8 x 5 feet. It’s actually a lot simpler than you ever thought. If you don’t have the time or energy, please find a vendor who can home deliver your organic food and dairy. There are quite a few good ones in the market who offer free deliveries. It is only about making the first big move. I can promise you a lifetime of rewards.

8. Wabi-sabi Your Life

Wabi-sabi is the most beautiful lesson you’ll learn after spending some time with raw food. It is a Japanese concept that encourages us to see beauty in imperfections. Suddenly the odd potato, the teeny pea, the oblong gourd, the not-so-round tomato, the pink apple all look so inviting. As long as they are fresh, natural, and gifted by nature, they are worth appreciating. Once you apply the principle of wabi-sabi to your food, you will be able appreciate beauty in odd ways, at odd places, and in almost everything you encounter. No moment is perfect, but every moment is special. This was my learning. Go find your own wabi-sabi moment, starting with your food.

9. People Who Love Food Are Happy People

See this for yourself. A full belly will give a beautiful feeling of satiation. You will feel at peace for a while after eating your favourite meal. The idea here is to make every meal ‘your favourite’, rather than saving them for special occasions. Find joy in the most simple things, like food. You will feel more peaceful, less stressful, happier, and content. Cultivate this love for your food and spend more time and energy in this ritual.

10. Listen To Your Body

I don’t believe in counting calories, following fads, going on diets, or following random diet plans. Listen to the wisdom of your body. It tells you everything. You just need to attune yourself to it and everything will be achievable. You can lose weight, gain health, tone your flab, get rid of diseases, and achieve a balanced body and mind just by following these principles – watching what, when, and how you eat. If you closely listen to your body, you will receive all your answers. Modern medicine is less than a hundred years old. All ancient methods relied completely on natural healing – with energy, plants, or herbs. Find your answers within nature and within the temple of your body. Listen to your body for guidance – I promise it won’t lead you astray!

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