Food and eating are probably two of the most important aspects of human life. There must be at least as many thoughts of how to eat right than there are eaters – well, maybe not as many but the emotional response food and eating evokes among people is enormous. Of course that is fairly understandable since without food we cannot live (not withstanding maybe the few enlightened yogis in India who under controlled circumstances are being able to live without food and water; they say the energy is coming from the elixir of life, a spiritual energy). The reason I’m writing about this is simple: you can eat either consciously or unconsciously and the same goes with many other aspects of life as well. Most of the people are passionate about food being culinarists or “specialists” of how to eat right: “eat this and avoid that…”. But to be honest, we are nowadays totally messed up with eating, especially healthy eating. Magazines are full of different kind of diets, recipes, and weight loss advices, restaurant critics not to mention countless cooking TV-shows. Food is literally everywhere, or so it seems, but still millions of people are starved to death. There is something terribly wrong with that picture. How is it that there aren’t enough food for everyone or would it rather be a question of lacking consciousness among people? This isn’t the topic or subject I’m going to discuss here now, but something for all of you to seriously give a thought about. How is it possible that we’re having a global epidemic on obesity and at the same time we’re more educated on healthy eating than ever before?
How many of you stop to think and feel when you eat, or is it just an automatic habit just to fuel your “engine”? TV commercials are full of advices on how to eat and lose weight or be healthy. Then how on earth is it possible that we are not healthy, but becoming more obese and sick? Would it be strange to think that perhaps the consciousness that is creating all the industrial low fat and diet stuff is after all destroying our health? We’re being systematically brainwashed by food industry and media on the way we eat and what we eat. All the rush, doing, achieving and accomplishing has led to us to this point that we are close to destroy ourselves with our own eating behaviors. We are dying of cancer more than ever, diabetes and all other metabolic disorders are becoming as common as a normal flu, we are mentally sicker than ever and yet according to statistics we are exercising more than ever with poor results on health. All this isn’t due to lack of discipline in following the diet guidelines, but rather due to the unconscious behavior behind that.
Before the rise of agriculture around 10000 years ago people didn’t have diabetes, coronary heart disease, obesity, cancer and many other diseases, which are mainly due to fast eating and very low quality of food. Before agriculture, a time, which is called Paleolithic, people were eating naturally and natural foods, foods that have been genetically adapted as pre-human and human nourishment past two million years. There were no cereals, no grains, no milk products nor highly processed fast foods. People ate when they were hungry and when the food was available via hunting and gathering. Work wasn’t nine-to-five, but it took about 3-4 hours a day, rest was plenty (10hours/night), lots of play, low-pace exercise, sprints here and there, occasional heavy lifting of objects etc. Life was a game, a beautiful play and food was enjoyed with other people. In the hectic world of today we have forgotten how to be still, how to really enjoy the food and how to listen to our bodies on what kind of food we really need. You might want to try this next time you eat: do not think how hungry you are or how good the food you have picked up will taste, but rather concentrate on the feeling and emotions you have AFTER you have eaten: five minutes, half an hour, a day after. This really tells you a lot more than the craving you had before you ate. I’ll give you an example: You are really hungry, I mean REALLY hungry. You are driving a car and thinking how you can get food as fast as possible. What do you do? You drive to the nearest McDonalds for a burger. Five minutes after you have eaten 1000 calories without having a breath between each mouthful. The hunger is gone; you probably could eat even more since the body isn’t even recognizing yet that you have eaten, because it takes 20 minutes for you to realize that there is food in your body. After four mouthfuls all your taste bunds are saturated with the food you are eating and the craving for food is gone and yet still you eat more. And how do you feel after this fast eating? Having nausea, getting tired, sleepy or anxious? Probably all those feelings and worse. You have just eaten huge amounts of “empty” calories just by satiating the fierce hunger you probably had because of skipping breakfast or as a bad previous meal. Ok, the hunger is gone but you are feeling even more terrible than before eating. And did you get any micronutrients that will really nourish you? – Zero to none. This was just a radical but very common example of unconscious eating. I’m sure all of us are familiar with this story; I personally have experienced this too before really realizing how the hunger control works in our brains. There are at least 38 hormones that control our appetite, hunger and eating. The key to successful nutrition and eating is controlling our hormonal balance. Bringing consciousness into the subtle feedback we get before, during and after eating are priceless. Did you know that MSG (Sodium-glutamate) makes us eat more than we actually want and that it works as an excitating neuro-transmitter in our brains? Or did you realize that every time you eat wheat or other grains it creates a response through your opiate receptors in the brain, just like taking morphine does although with 1000-fold magnitude.
You can be conscious of your daily activities including eating and drinking. Next time you are planning to eat try to bring awareness to your every move and intention. Feel the smell of your food; see how it looks before you taste it. What kind of response do you notice in your mouth? Try to enjoy every single bite of the food with gratitude; this way you also evoke the positive feelings of the fact that you can have a nourishing, healthy and tasty food. Share these sensations and feelings with the people you eat. Eating can be also a play; a play of colors, smells, tastes, textures and emotions. Be still, be present and… be healthy.