Usually it’s the amazing meals that remain lodged in my memory. However, every once in a while, a particularly uninspired dinner will become indelibly etched in my mind.
Many years ago, my boyfriend (at the time) and I were invited to dinner at the home of his friends. The conversation was good and we had a fun evening together, but no matter how much I tried, I just couldn’t enjoy the food on my plate. What struck me about this meal was its emptiness. It was devoid of joy and bland in flavor and vitality.
The couple that had kindly asked us into their home was accustomed to an all-American diet, but a doctor had recently told the husband he needed to make a change. So, the cupboards were stripped of snack foods and the fridge was filled with “health foods,” such as turkey bacon, egg whites, and low-fat cream cheese.
At the time, I simply thought our meal was overcooked and lacking flavor, but now I realize that there was more to the story. This couple wanted to be healthy, but they didn’t know how to change their habits. So, they chose substitutes for the foods they were accustomed to eating, and they assumed that eating healthy foods meant that they would forever be relegated to dull meals. There was no joy in the food because they felt no joy in this new way of eating.
Believe it or not, food that is good for you can actually be delicious. Some of the very best meals I’ve ever had have been “good for me” and some of the worst meals have been “bad for me.” Healthy foods will actually make you feel good when you eat them. You can literally feel the energy coursing through your body. Of course, I’ve also relished many a decadent piece of cake, knowing that I wasn’t consuming many nutrients but was getting heaps of what nutritionist Marc David calls “Vitamin P” (Vitamin Pleasure), and that too can be important.
Simply eating “good for you” food won’t necessarily make you healthy. It’s also important that you enjoy what you eat and you savor the experience. When you force yourself to either eat food you loathe or cook in a way you think is healthy but doesn’t inspire you, likely you won’t get as much enjoyment from the meal. It’s also likely that you won’t absorb as many nutrients either. The aforementioned Marc David has done some fascinating research on this topic, which we discuss in greater depth inThe Mystic Cookbook.
One of the most important ingredients in any recipe is fun. Enjoy the cooking and eating process. As you stir, imagine your heart opening wide and filling your pot with love. Your joy will be a magic seasoning that no one will guess but everyone will taste.
When deciding what to eat and how to eat, the tenet I live by is: Love what you eat, and eat what you love.
Food fads and trends come and go. Whoever heard of kale ten years ago? When I was a kid, coconut oil was considered evil. Carob used to be a healthy alternative to chocolate, and brown eggs were considered better for you than white.
There are a million different ways to eat: paleo, raw, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan, high-protein, nose-to-tail, whole-milk, no milk, whole grains, no grains, fat-free, full-fat, carb-free, local, farm-to-table, and the list goes on.
Then there are specific things to eat: exotic superfoods (such as acai, maca, and goji berries), green juice, chia seeds, quinoa, and hemp hearts. Remember when people used to drink prune juice, or who wasn’t inspired to try a raw egg shake after seeing Rocky?
Despite the myriad of information (often conflicting) and the many “next best things,” there is one way of eating that never goes out of fashion: Choose food that makes you feel good in mind, body, and spirit. Find foods that taste good and give you energy, strength, vitality, and joy. Savor every bite. Take pleasure in your meals, whether or not they adhere to one of the current trends. There is not one way to eat. We are each different, and we have different requirements. Eat in alignment with who YOU are.
I don’t tend to make resolutions for the New Year; however, many people vow to lose weight, detox, or eat more healthfully as soon as the clock ticks midnight on December 31st. As you venture forth into 2014, I encourage you to promise instead to love what you eat, and eat what you love. This type of resolution affirms all that is good and delicious about food, rather than focusing on lack. Here’s to finding joy in eating well, being healthy, and loving ourselves no matter what!! Happy 2014!!!