In our every day lives, we can often find that food has become laced with confusion or conflict. Is this good for us? Is it Paleo? Is it gluten free, grain free, sugar free? Will I gain weight? Food seems to have been reduced to being on a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ list. But food really is so much more than this. Isn’t it? Before we try and answer that, let’s explore this idea of eating for health. The longer I have been on a food journey the more I realise that food is so much more than ingredients on our plate.
The term, “we are what we absorb” denotes that no matter what we are eating, ultimately if we aren’t absorbing the nutrients from the food, we’re falling short. I even like to think about this term, “we are what we absorb” in a broader sense and relate this idea of absorption to mind, body and soul. Our health is so much more than the food on our plates. Who we choose to associate with, the conversations we have, the books we read, the media we follow, the way we talk to our self, the way we choose to move, our environment, what we put on our skin and so forth, all have an impact on our overall health and wellbeing. Food is just one piece of the puzzle.
So focusing on the food piece of the puzzle, what has food been reduced to? A good and a bad list? A healthy and not so healthy? How do we decide what to eat? The easiest way I have made these decisions is exactly in line with the way I teach my 6 year old son about food- Does it come from nature? Is it in it’s closest form to nature as possible? If it is, we enjoy it. But, what if it isn’t? What if we have those moments where all the kids are lined up at the Mr Whippy van after an awesome day at the beach? What if Nana lovingly hands my son a scotch finger biscuit? What happens when my son is handed his party bag full of lollies? You know what, when these moments come along, I remember that food is so much more than ingredients. The stress, angst and turmoil I would create if I put on a scene would be more harmful to the situation than the food itself.
More Than Food- The Four Aspects of Food and Nutrition
There are four aspects of food and nutrition: biological, psychological, social and spiritual. Understanding these has helped my perspective on food deepen and grow. It has given me peace around what I eat and what my son is sometimes exposed to and helped me to let go of the control I tried to enforce around food, realising there is a much bigger picture to be understood.
Nutrient rich foods that have the power to nourish and heal. Biological- relating to living organisms; life giving food from nature. I aim to consume and provide such foods for my son on a daily basis. There is growing awareness around the healing properties and power of real food and how important biological nutrition is.
This relates directly to gut health and how food can influence mood, emotions, behaviour and food choices. Gut health was the driving force behind my food journey. Learning about the intricate network of our micro-biome and it’s connection to our entire bodily functions, in particular, the mind, has been paramount in mine and my family’s overall health.
The joy of eating. The love and laughter we share around a meal at the dinner table and how eating like this can lead to nourishment on a far deeper level than eating stressed or on the run or eating in a state where we are worrying about each and every ingredient of the food in front of us.
One of wonderment and relating to the mystery of life inherent in both food and human beings. As we know, real food is life- life giving and life containing. As we teach our children, we want to eat food that is from nature. Spiritual nutrition is about acknowledging all parts of nature that food depends on- the sun, earth, soil, water and air. So, can this impact our health the way biological, psychological and social nutrition can? You bet. To derive the health benefits from spiritual nutrition one must be fully present and show gratitude and love each time a meal is enjoyed.
This mindfulness, graciousness and love that we acknowledge that is put into a meal can slow us down and ensure our body is in the “rest and digest” mode. There are two important systems in our body- “fight or flight” also known as the sympathetic nervous system and “rest and digest” our parasympathetic nervous system. When we are in “fight or flight” our body is in an alarmed state and ready for action. Adrenaline and cortisol are up and running through the body and in this state the body is less able to break down and draw nutrients from the food we eat. Ever eaten a meal on the run only to have indigestion or a sore tummy afterwards? The biological opposite to this is our parasympathetic system of nerves. When we are in “rest and digest” we are able to heal and regenerate. The body is able to digest, detox, eliminate and build immunity, just what we need if we are consuming food!
As I have moved along on my food journey and especially with the inspiration from Pinkfarm, I have realised how much spiritual nutrition has played a role in this journey. I realised that I now put more thought, love and intention into my food, whether I am cooking for a dinner party of making a meal just for myself. This purposeful act shows gratitude for the food we make and serve and slows us down to appreciate the beauty in the food we consume. I have also often laughed about the photos we capture of our food before we eat. Taking these pictures is a way I give thanks for the wonderful food that we are able to provide for our family, another way of slowing down and being more mindful before digging into the meal.
So, it really is more than just food. Nutrition is more than the nutrients of the ingredients on our plates. Our bodies are far more complex than we realise. Our experience of taste, aroma, the love and intention put into the meal, the people around us and the joy of eating all add to the experience of nourishment. To be truly on a food journey we have so much more to consider than just the food itself. If you are feeling like food coaching with this kind of perspective may be something you could benefit from, I’d love to be part of your journey. X