Food and Joy
Right after I prepared a small dish of (one of) my favorite ice creams—coffee chip topped with chocolate sprinkles—a friend called to chat. “Can I call you back?” I asked. Thinking she called at an inconvenient time, my friend apologized. “Oh, it’s fine,” I assured her. “It’s just that I need to eat my ice cream first. I’ll call you back when I’m finished.” I’m still unsure if my friend was confused or amused by my dedication to a creamy, frozen confection, but I was not about to be deterred. I had made that mistake too many times: eating something yummy without paying attention means one small bowl of ice cream turns into two small bowls (with perhaps an extra spoonful eaten straight out of the container for good measure.) I learned a long time ago that if I am not fully present when I eat and don’t allow myself to delight (and even rejoice) in the experience of eating, I feel unsatisfied at best and ripped off at worst. The temptation to fill that void with more food follows. Ugh. That’s the worst.
“Experts”—whether it be scientists, nutrition professionals, or social media influencers—seem to have no end of advice about what to eat. Very few encourage people how to eat, and so, dear readers, I plan to rectify that right now. Here you go: Eat with awareness and eat with joy. That’s it. (See my first paragraph for an example of this advice in action.) It might surprise you that a nutrition professional like myself would dedicate a whole post to this topic but I assure you that this information is way more important than carbs, fat grams, and intermittent fasting combined. I’m curious to know what you think about that idea. Do you know why this issue matters?
Here is the problem: Far too many people have bought into the lie there is a perfect diet that, if consumed, will keep them from feeling bad, fat, lazy, or just plain uninformed. Add in the perception that life’s too busy for shopping/cooking/sitting down to eat, and the end result is that people have become incapable of experiencing the blessing and joy of eating. How sad is this?? Joy comes from being present and attuned to one’s body so the process of eating nourishes the body and soul. If we disconnect from our souls and refuse to believe that good self-care means tending to what our bodies and emotions are saying, we run the risk of eating out of habit, completely ignoring what is happening inside of us. There is no joy to be had in this scenario, only guilt, shame, and worst case, despair.
Here are some signs that may indicate that you have become disconnected from the joyful process of eating:
You often eat while doing other things
You often eat out of containers or wrappers rather than from a plate or bowl
You “steal” food (meaning you grab a cookie or slice of cake while standing at the counter and shove it in without making a point to sit down and enjoy it.)
You don’t allow yourself to eat certain food groups because some expert has said it’s bad for you. *Please note that this doesn’t apply if you avoid certain foods due to food intolerances/allergies.
You eat the same thing every day because it feels safe.
You can’t be bothered to shop or cook for yourself.
If you identify with any of the above, I encourage you to consider (without judgment) how you got there. Where did you learn the lesson that food is irrelevant at best and a foe at worst? Why do you not allow yourself to be nurtured and loved by the act of feeding yourself with attunement and care? Would you be willing to journal your thoughts/feelings about those questions?
If you want to take steps to break the cycle of eating in a disconnected way—which definitely limits your joy— I have a few simple suggestions to get you started:
Pause and give thanks before you eat anything. Remind yourself that food is a gift and it’s meant to be enjoyed
As much as you can, try to eat without the distraction of working, reading, driving, watching videos, etc.
Put your food (even take-out) on a plate. Set the table if you can.
Refuse to partner with guilt when you eat. Guilt is a joy killer! If you decide to have that ice cream (or whatever), slow down and enjoy the heck out of it. Your soul will thank you. ❤️
As always, I’d love to hear your comments and thoughts on this post. Please share it with a friend!
Love your story. This is the story of my life. As a 57 year old obese female. I do a lot of mindless eating. Today even, although I’m trying to eat better through Gods grace, I’m making zucchini and eggplant chips and working from home. So I’m back and forth checking on them in the oven and eating some and and back and forth. I ate majority of them. They are healthy but too much of anything is bad so now I feel bloated etc…
I need to definitely learn to stop eating while doing other stuff. I can eat by accident.
Thanks for your story Jeanie. I will do better, God willing.
Thank you for sharing your feedback Penny! I am glad you resonate with the importance of being mindful and present when you eat. As you do that, I bet you’ll notice how the food is feeling inside of you and your body will help inform you when you’ve had enough. This cuts down on the chance you will be eating “by accident,” as you mentioned. God bless you on your journey!
I’m curious how you would hold these principles for folks that literally just don’t have the time to sit and eat. Whether they are dealing with crying babies, running kids back and forth between evening practices, or just going straight from work to personal plans, how can they still make a point to be present and take their time with their food?
Great question Mike! Posts always sound so good until you have to apply them, eh?? 😂 I completely understand the temptation to buy into the idea that life is just too busy to make mindful eating a priority. Life CAN be full on, (making change hard) but I encourage people to consider that we are going to be better parents, workers, spouses or whatever, if we care for ourselves first. (Put your own oxygen mask on before you help others.) Mindfulness starts with intention and intention takes no time at all. Intention just involves making a mental shift from “I pay no attention to my needs” to “I am going to start paying attention and doing what I can to give myself a bit more space to take care of me.” Next, try taking small steps that follow on from intention. Maybe it’s eating mindfully one meal a day. The point is to stop coming into agreement with the lie that “I’m just too busy” so nothing ever changes. Start small and celebrate any win. We are all here cheering you on! Thank you of reaching out, Mike!
You taught me this so many years ago and I am getting so much better at eating while being present with out distractions. I eat less and I enjoy it more. Thank you for your lessons.
This is gold Steffany: “I eat less and enjoy it more.” I’m really happy for you!
You just gave me so much joy and peace reading this because I loved to cook love to eat I love food! And I’ve legit ignored calls or paused whatever I’m doing no matter what to sit and eat and enjoy my food, I hate being distracted and not enjoying my meal, I either cooked it myself or even if I bought my money was spent in going to make sure I enjoy it! But sometimes I feel guilty like “was that call important” or I should do this while finish the laundry but this post right here spoke to my soul and gave me peace that it’s ok to slow down rest and enjoy my meal!
I’m going to start to pay attention how much less I eat compared to times when I feel like I have to eat on the go !
Thank you so much for sharing this
Truly blessed me !
Thanks so much for your feedback Erika! It’s so great that you make it a priority to enjoy your food! I’d love to hear what you observe about your food intake when you compare times that you stay present with the times you are eating on the go.