Our Emotional Connection to FoodBy Kim Banting,
I would like to offer you a different perspective of the phrase “you are what you eat”.
Our five senses deliver an emotional response. Have you ever smelled fresh cut grass and been reminded of the first time you ever noticed it? or felt a soft, warm rain on your skin and recalled a specific time and place? or picked up a photograph of a loved one and were immediately taken back in time with that person? We carry memories in our senses that bring up very strong emotions. When we see a table spread with a family meal, hear the sound of onions sizzling, smell a freshly cut apple, touch the leafy greens of a salad we are tossing or taste something we carefully prepared, we are sending signals to our body that prepares it to receive this food. We are also exchanging energy between our body and the food that affects how it will nourish us! It may sound crazy, but it’s absolutely true.
You are having a terrible day. You feel miserable and just want to get home and shut yourself away from everything and everyone. On your way home, you are walking through a park and come across an apple tree. Hanging right at eye level is the most perfect apple you have ever seen. You pick it and take a moment to inhale the sweetness of it’s skin. You feel it’s warmth from hanging in the bright sun. You take a bite and it is crisp and juicy and the perfect balance of tart and sweet, and it floods your taste buds. You take a deep, cleansing breath and find a patch of grass to sit on and enjoy your apple while breathing in the fresh air and feeling the sun on your skin. How do you feel now?
On the other hand; you are having a terrible day and simply make your way home through busy city traffic. You get home and find a bag of chips which you promptly open and grab a handful. They are crispy, greasy and absolutely satisfying! You take the bag of chips to the sofa and sit down to watch TV while you continue to eat chips until they are gone. You don’t really recall eating the chips because you were focused on your program. You didn’t mean to eat the entire bag……How does this make you feel?
These two scenarios show that our emotions can influence what we eat, but also, that what we eat can influence our emotions. Since the food you eat contains the necessary building blocks for your cells and tissues, consider how the emotion you feel while eating will impact these building blocks, cells and tissues. Therefore, how we eat is just as important as what we eat. Taking the time to create a calm, relaxed environment, and noticing your food: look at it, smell it, touch it and then taste it; putting your fork down between bites and chewing slowly while noticing all the flavours and textures that come up; being aware of your food and feeling gratitude for your meal…all of this creates our mindset so that while you are eating you are charging your food with energy as well as aiding in a smooth and efficient digestive process.
When we eat in a relaxed manner, when we feel calm and are enjoying our food, our body prepares for digestion by secreting saliva and hydrochloric acid , both of which affect activity in the intestines and our microbacteria (probiotics) which further assist in the breakdown of our food. Feeling joyful while eating helps to promote more healthy bacteria in the gut which aids digestion and boosts our immunity. Feeling stressed, fearful or angry while eating reduces numbers of good bacteria and allows pathogens to flourish which is detrimental to digestion as well as your entire health.
Another part of our emotional connection to food lies with how we identify ourselves through our food choices: I’m a vegan, I only eat raw foods, I’m a meat eater, I’m gluten-free, dairy-free, an omnivore, only eat organic, vegetables are rabbit food, etc. We associate an image with each of these labels that cause us, and others to draw conclusions about the other choices we make. If you are a healthy eater, do you also make your own hemp clothing and live off the grid? Are carnivores violent, insensitive people? No, of course not. However, our associations with our food choices does, to some extent affect our molecular function as well as impacts how others will treat us. When I say this affects our molecular function, I’m referring to how our emotions can affect our physical bodies and our health. Remember my earlier imagery of the bad day and finding the apple. A very simple experience can have a powerful result on your well being.
So the next time you are having a meal, take the time to sit down and take a few deep breaths before eating. Look at your food. Smell your food. Feel grateful for your meal. Set your fork down between bites and chew each bite thoroughly before swallowing. I guarantee that this experience will change the way you feel after your meal.