Eating: the Food, the Body, the Love
If you met me 4 years ago, you would probably find me sitting down in the red chair in KFC, after having ordered a big portion of fried chicken wings, French fries, and a coke. And you would see me twitching on the chair with anticipation. I wasn’t addicted to fast food, not quite. But I did like the taste of processed food, refined sugar, greasy dishes. So I did what everybody around me did: eat whatever tastes good.
4 years ago, I wasn’t healthy, I was sick. Headache , migrants, and backache were frequent. I had low blood pressure. I suffered from stress, anxiety, negative moods. My digestive system malfunctioned with constant constipation. I catch a cold with the slight change of weather because my immune system wasn’t working. I woke up feeling grumpy, and during the day I dragged my body around like pulling the hair of a 100 pounds ragdoll. Sleepiness and tiredness were accepted as normal – for them I had coffee. I popped pills whenever I had health problems, ignorant of how my medicines fixed A, but screwed up B, C, and D.
I wasn’t too fat or too skinny; and I was proud of that. But I had no idea that my body’s symptoms clearly communicated that I was malnourished. Like countless other people - young and old – I did not know the importance of eating well, the effects of foods on the body.
We are what we eat.
I’d known this proverb for a very very long time. Only in the last 6 months, I began to truly understand what that means thanks to the loving, wonderful book The Earth Diet by Liana Werner-Gray. We are what we eat because the atoms of our bodies are made of all the atoms in the food we swallow. Simple as that. I’m unsure whether this fact belongs to biology, physics, or chemistry – perhaps all of them. But no one needs a high school degree to understand this. This is my truth: we are what we eat – doesn’t matter what’s our name, where we live, what we do, which health condition we have, or which DNA combination we were given at birth.
“How to Eat” is most probably the most important survival skill for us human. We are very different from, let’s say, birds. Leaving a bird alone, nobody needs to teach it how to eat. A bird is natural. Birds do not live in a civilization. We do. And the current best interest of our economy is clear: to make profit. Among the biggest, most powerful industries is the food industry.
After all, one dose of processed meat, salty fries, and sugary soda poses a relatively small health risk, right? It’s not like you do it all the time. But habits emerge without our permission.[…]
Every McDonald’s, for instance, looks the same—the company deliberately tries to standardize stores’ architecture and what employees say to customers, so everything is a consistent cue to trigger eating routines. The foods at some chains are specifically engineered to deliver immediate rewards—the fries, for instance, are designed to begin disintegrating the moment they hit your tongue, in order to deliver a hit of salt and grease as fast as possible, causing your pleasure centers to light up and your brain to lock in the pattern. All the better for tightening the habit loop.
Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit
Advancements in neurology and psychology are being used – ever so subtly and masterfully by the marketers and the product designers – to manipulate our taste buds. Most restaurants and cooks create dishes that taste good. And there is nothing wrong with that. But caring for the taste alone is lopsided. This brings us to an important question:
Why do we eat?
If I can only choose one reason, I will say without a blink that I eat to nourish my body. The rest are secondary. Back to basic, we eat to survive. And we keep on eating to be alive.
Being alive to me doesn’t mean giving in to my impulsive taste buds, which have been manipulated since the time I couldn’t even spell manipulation. Being alive doesn’t mean being a good consumer of the rotten food industry. Being alive doesn’t mean eating mindlessly, enjoying the short-live satisfaction; and then being tormented by guilt and shame after. Being alive doesn’t mean inhabiting in a body wrecked by my food choices, and worse, accepting that it’s normal.
Being alive means to be in a body that feels good. It means enjoying what I eat, not only while eating, but also after that. It means to feel the lightness, spaciousness, and vitality in every cell. It means to look at the mirror and feel confident, beautiful, loving, and loved; no matter the shape of my body.
I used to be so conditioned to a body that feels heavy, dull, tired, that I did not know how good it can feel to inhabit in my own body. Trust me, our body is designed to feel good. Our body knows what it needs to do to feel good. The innate intelligence that knows how to start from just 2 cells and create our almost 100 trillion specialized cells also knows how to feed itself. In this 21st century, this intelligence is still far beyond our human understanding. We only need to listen to this intelligence.
When others see how I eat, they think I’m going through some serious punishments. Truth is: the only thing I do is to listen, and because I listen, I know the way.
- Good food is what makes me better after my body digests it. No extra explanation needed.
- Good food is natural, not processed. Natural food is the food we intuitively know how to make them. I know how a boiled potato is made. I have no idea how potato chips are manufactured. The lesser the steps a raw ingredient needs to go through to be in our mouth, the better it is for our body. Cooking processes are supposed to aid digestion. Sadly, they are most of the time overused. Thus, we take away nutrients, distort food’s molecules, destroy natural enzymes, and put in harmful chemicals.
- I eat slowly, and attentively so that my digestive system won’t have to overwork. The teeth and jaw are there to help the stomach and the intestines. Do you know that next to sex and severe stress, digestion is what takes up the most energy in our body? No wonder why most of us feel dull after meals.
- I eat when I’m hungry, not when I’m bored or anxious. I stop eating when I feel 75% full, not when I feel like unbuttoning my trousers.
How do you know when you are hungry or full? By paying attention. There is a Zen saying that: “When you eat, you eat. When you walk, you walk. When you die, you die.” This means to be whole and undivided in the current activity. That’s why it’s so easy to overeat while watching TV, or talking, or thinking about other things. This does not mean that we need to lock ourselves in a dungeon during lunch. Since I knew the importance of mindful eating, I learned to pay attention to my body while sharing a good meal with others.
Trust me or not, when you are mindful, good food tastes good, and unhealthy food tastes bad. I cook my own food. I eat plain rice and plain steamed vegetables every day. I look forward to my meals and I love the taste every day. I honestly feel so happy, so blessed eating my simple nourishing meals.
When we are so used to unhealthy food, your taste buds and body become inured to it. We thought that we can’t live without it. We can. And thousands of people around the world are going through this transformation to heal themselves every day. Now just thinking of fried chicken makes me cringe. I’ve learned to be attuned to the needs of my body.
You, too, can learn this.
You deserve to feel good. You deserve to inhabit in a body that is light, and spacious, and vital. You deserve a body that endures whatever journey you choose to take in your life. Your body is enough and beautiful and magnificent exactly as how it is now. No matter its shape, the human body, your body, is already the greatest work of art this planet Earth has ever created.
The fact that you are reading these words means your brain, your lung, your heart, your eyes are working every single second without you having to think about them. Your body loves you, so unconditionally.
Are you loving back?