The Healing Power of Food

On the surface, all strawberries are the same. There is a marked difference, however, between a summer strawberry that is picked straight from a local organic garden and a strawberry that is out of season, store-bought, grown on a factory farm, and shipped in from thousands of miles away. The color, aroma, and taste are incomparable. One delights our senses and supplies us with deep nourishment, whereas the other is “flat” to our senses and may actually poison us.

Plants thrive, and therefore nourish us, when they receive nutrient-dense soil, water, sunlight, and careful tending by a gardener or farmer. In turn, we thrive by eating the produce of those plants, as well as by receiving love and support from those around us, and by otherwise immersing ourselves in the bounty of living – through physical activity, creative self-expression, spiritual practice, and so on. In these ways, plants – and by extension, food – are inextricably intertwined with and are symbols of the state of our health.

In other words, the old adage, “You are what you eat,” is quite true. It is therefore important to bring consciousness to our choices around food.

Consider getting started by minimizing your consumption of pre-packaged, processed foods, and maximizing your consumption of fresh, whole foods – primarily vegetables and fruits. When you are ready, you can take the next step – becoming mindful of where the food was grown (locally? a world away?), how it was farmed (organic and fair trade? with pesticides and substandard working conditions?), and how it was distributed (farmer’s or local markets? national food chains with headquarters out of state?), then choosing the more socially- and health-conscious options.

Keep in mind that the closer food is to source, and the more caringly it has been harvested, the more you will bite into a state of wellness when you eat it – not only obtaining nourishment on the physical level but also connecting the individual, collective, and planetary dots of “health.” In other words, look for integrity in how the food is grown, how it is harvested, and how it makes its way to your plate. Become curious: Where can I get food that was grown with love?

When you are ready, elevate your nurturance to an even higher level, by becoming mindful of how you prepare, present, and eat your food. Know that you have the potential to nourish yourself on every level of your being – effectively choosing abundance over deprivation and otherwise ensuring that you take care of your needs before, during, and after your experience of eating.

For starters, when you prepare your food, reflect on how you can make the experience joyful and nourishing. Perhaps you will invite friends over, to share the full range of experience – from preparation to cleanup – effectively creating a festive atmosphere and opportunity for socializing. Or perhaps you will see your food like a work of art, arranging colorful vegetables on a plate, as you would brush colorful paints on a canvas. You might even approach the experience as a meditation – turning on sacred music and chanting while chopping.

However you choose to approach it, seize the opportunity to add a dimension of self-care to the act of preparing your food. In addition, while selecting ingredients and quantities, contemplate how you will feel after eating whatever you are preparing. True nourishment takes into consideration our state of being before, during and after the experience – ensuring that we are getting what we truly need, each step of the way.

When we indulge our senses, we invoke abundance. When we over-indulge our senses, however, or when this indulgence is driven by our minds but disconnected from our bodies, we unwittingly cross over the line into deprivation. Ponder how to hit that sweet spot in the middle.

Next, present your food in a way that is soothing to all your senses, and create a beautiful atmosphere for eating. Here are some ideas: Clear away clutter from your table; adorn your table with a pretty tablecloth, candles, and flowers; use colorful serving plates to set your food on the table; put on relaxing music; and turn off all phones, computers, and televisions during mealtime. Start with one of these steps for now, then add more over time. The idea is that here, too, you can approach the experience with an attitude of self-care – whether you conceptualize it as an artistic endeavor, meditation, or festive celebration.

Lastly, once you are ready to eat, be totally present to the experience of feeding your body. You may choose to start and finish your meal with an offering of thanks for the bounty in your life and on your table, and you may bring that sense of gratitude into each bite – taking your time to chew the food and contemplate how it satiates your hunger. You might invite loved ones to share your meal, creating a sense of belonging, community, and support that you imbibe with the food. You might otherwise use mealtime as an opportunity for contemplation, meditation, or prayer.

As in each area of our lives, the act of eating provides us with the opportunity to engage our creativity, connect deeply to our bodies, activate our senses, and ultimately elevate our experience into one of self-love, nourishment, and wellness. By bringing consciousness to each step of the eating process – the ingredients we select, the way we prepare them, and the environment in which we eat them – we can fill our lives with healing, harmony, and wholeness.