* Do you ever find yourself magnetically drawn to the chocolate section of your natural foods store?
* Do you ever think, “Awe, to hell with my whole food diet today…I need that croissant!”?
Pleasure foods can sometimes give us a very necessary, temporary relief, which can ground us in sense of safety, and help us move on with a stressful day. Sometimes, comfort foods simply help us access feelings of joy and gratitude. Let’s face it. The world is way too fast-paced, hectic, and even frightening. When the pressure builds, letting ourselves enjoy our favorite foods, gives us that short retreat of pleasure that we may need to quiet our negative thoughts, and remember that everything will be okay.
I’ve recently realized that, for many people, eating pleasure foods can be key to cultivating joy in life. For some people, it’s one of the few pleasures they have left. I’ve also seen that eating with others, is many people’s most common venue for sociability. I’ve come to understand this, after 18 years on my path of discovering which foods make me feel best, day to day, situation to situation, emotion to changing emotion.
For most people, it’s nearly impossible to eat a 100% whole foods diet, and ultimately, I don’t believe that for anyone, this should be the goal. In coming from being overly disciplined with my diet for many years, and in finally allowing myself (with awareness) to indulge once in a while, I can now experience the wonderful blessings of tasting delectable foods! Also, I get tons of needed human connection in going out to eat about once a week with my boyfriend, or when meeting a friend for lunch, or when gathering with people at a potluck. Granted, I choose wisely when I eat away from home, based on my whole food knowledge, but I don’t obsess about each ingredient anymore. I’m now uplifted emotionally by spending quality time with the people I love over delicious food.
I think it’s also sometimes important to experience these feelings of joy, contentment, and gratitude with delicious food when we’re alone…whenever we need an emotionally-soothing deviation from our healthy diet. Of utmost importance to having a healthy relationship with food, I believe, is the awareness of why we’re making certain choices. Are we being emotionally driven? When we’re aware of this, we can then either choose to indulge, or choose to re-write our patterns of eating for comfort. When we’re unaware, indulgence tends to happen so often that it leads to imbalance and illness.
This food-wisdom has been bestowed upon me by my wonderful friend Don, who believes that the emotions we experience while we eat, are as important (and sometimes more important) than what we eat! To always be worried about whether the food we eat will cause or cure cancer, that we never allow ourselves to enjoy our favorite comfort food, or food shared with friends and family at the holidays, limits our experience of life’s pleasures, and can cause stress and social isolation, which can then lead to illness.
Science has lately proven that having good emotions while eating, aids digestion and nutrient assimilation, and tells our bodies that we’re safe and happy. According to quantum physics, whatever food we eat can be transformed into building blocks for a happy, peaceful human being with our thoughts, beliefs, and intentions. Now, that being said, since none of us are disciplined spiritual masters, I would not recommend going out and eating mostly processed or fast food, thinking that a prayer will change it each time into beneficial nourishment. But I do LOVE my friend Karyn’s prayer. She says this to herself whenever she eats food that is less than ideal: “My mind is strong. My mind keeps my body healthy. Everything I eat turns to health and beauty.” She believes this, deeply, and voila! It is so! Karyn is an extremely healthy, vital, bubbly, entertaining, glowing, wise-woman who’s approaching 70 years old, who rises with the sun each day and squats effortlessly while working in her garden or while playing with her neighbor’s children. This food-prayer she’s offered us, is a wonderful tool, which each of us can use in today’s world full of refined and genetically modified foods.
Of course, comfort foods are definitely not beneficial for people with illness. Someone with a progressed disease such as diabetes, kidney disease, or cancer will benefit greatly by preparing 100% of their meals with whole, organic foods, and probably by also drinking green juices until feeling well again. Only when a person is well and healthy and in balance, do I suggest deviating from a nourishing, whole food diet. In cases of illness, I think the key would be creating a pleasure food which is emotionally satisfying from whole food ingredients….like my amazing, gluten & sugar free, lemon-lavender poppy seed cake (pictured above), which is sweetened with Nu Naturals vanilla stevia!
So, why aren’t each of us able to eat only the refined, packaged and fast foods, and willfully transcend all of the ill-effects? I don’t believe the answer is simple. Each person is dealing with a variety of factors other than what they eat and drink regularly, including stress, quality of sleep, regular exercise, regular connection with others, mental and emotional habits, exposure to toxins, etc…all of which add up to whether we are healthy or sick, or any shade of grey between. And, lets certainly not forget the biggest factor: The Great Mystery of this life, with it’s many challenges and lessons, which cause us to learn and grow spiritually. Life is so humbling, and I am grateful every minute for everything.
In reverence of The Great Mystery of life, I have also seen lots of evidence that we can take a powerful role in our health by feeding our body whole foods regularly. In doing so, we are building the physical, structural foundation for a healthy body, which effects our minds, emotions and habits. Everything is connected. What’s most inspiring to me, is the fact that our bodies are designed to be self-regulating and self-renewing, and that cellularly, we are totally new every seven years down to our teeth and bones! Our bodies naturally balance and heal themselves when given the basic tools of whole foods as fuel. I’m also inspired by people who are able to consistently eat whole foods and maintain quality connections with others. I love the photos of tribal people with elders squatting around the fire at 90 years old, laughing and cooking with the rest of the tribe.
In teaching people to CookWell, I hope to help them learn to use the natural flavors of whole salts, whole fats, herbs and spices, lemon juice, and the freshest ingredients, to create amazingly tasty whole food snacks and meals which also comfort emotionally. As people begin to eat more and more whole foods, the extreme flavors of packaged foods become less appealing. Our taste buds eventually adjust to enjoy natural flavors. For me, my usual lunch or dinner of black beans, brown rice, seasonal veggie stir-steam, and avocado is deeply gratifying and comforting. I hope to re-define the words, “comfort food”, to mean food which is BOTH emotionally comforting and physically nourishing…food which is grown, harvested, and prepared with love, food which is totally nourishing and vitalizing, and food which is so delicious that it soothes our hearts and minds.
I’d like to help make this experience possible for everyone in the world, for a healthier, happier humanity. I know it’s possible at the level of the individual, because I’ve done it for myself. I believe it’s possible for you too, in your journey of learning to cook with whole foods.