By Dietitian Jill Place AKA The Good Gut Queen
I thought I’d start the New Year … and the New Decade … out with a reality check about food. Food is often villified … the enemy … the problem.
Food is the reason we’re not in our ideal bodies. Food can also be a cheat … of our best-intentioned resolutions and our very lives.
But food is also nurturing, nourishing (in so many ways), and downright delicious (figuratively and literally). And that’s how I like to think of it.
I put out a call on the internet several years ago for responses to something called “The Food is … Project”. I merely asked people to finish the sentence, “Food is …”
I got hundreds of responses … and planned to do an Ebook. Unfortunately it never happened. But here are 15 of the best answers … with my own comments. Eat them up …
#1 Food is … Love
You know what they say … “Nothing says lovin’ like something from the oven”. Or at least the Pillsbury Doughboy said it.
Food has been mother-love from the first time we suckled that bottle or breast to yesterday when we popped that forbidden 2000-calorie pastry in our mouths. Freud aside.
The trick is to not use food as a substitute for loving yourself. Or others. So please don’t cram it down people’s throats to fill in for hugs or other loving actions. And please … please … don’t do the same to yourself.
#2 Food is … Life
The down and dirty reality is that, if we don’t eat, we’ll die! Food feeds not only our bodies but our psyches and souls.
Without food, we’re weak … unable to focus or move. We have to eat, but we CAN choose how and why we do. I choose life … and food … every day.
#3 Food is … Fun
I have instantaneous giggles and visions of the circus and cotton candy when I think of this phrase. The bottom line is that food SHOULD be fun when you eat it.
Or at the very least … a positive experience. I could have chosen a table groaning with goodies. But instead picked the photo above to remind us of this often-overlooked food fact.
#4 Food is … Community
I grew up Jewish so celebratory meals were de rigeuer in my family. And the reason for a lot of love, laughter, and a chance to see friends and family.
It was also the way I learned to cook at my aunt’s apron-strings; she made everything from scratch except her own wine.
The carp swam in the bathtub to be killed and done up into gefilte fish that very day. No other has sufficed in flavor and texture since those times when we broke our Yom Kippur fast with it.
#5 Food is … Medicine
We’re just coming back around to the consciousness that food can actually heal. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, said it a couple of thousand years ago and we’re still catching up with the concept.
Perhaps it’s because we’re mostly enamored of fast food these days (the line is down the block every night at In-&-Out burgers a few blocks from my house) and less and less with our own cooking. Possibly because we realize that fresh, local, and healing foods take a bit of doing.
But the old adage, “You are what you Eat”, is still most definitely true!
#6 Food is … Nourishing
Many people just don’t get this. Or pervert it to think that overeating is nourishing.
Food nourishes not only the body but also the mind … without it, we don’t get the proper nutrients to focus, think, and even balance emotions.
Did you know that certain amino acids (proteins) help make substances in the brain that calm us and stabilize our mood? Food also nourishes the soul; it’s a triple threat. Anais Nin said, “You have to learn to intake, to imbibe, to nourish yourself…”
#7 Food is … Fullness
Nin finished the above quote with, “… and not be afraid of fullness. The fullness is like a tidal wave which then carries you, sweeps you into experience … “
Therefore, an idea of fullness goes far beyond a feeling in the pit of your stomach. As Nin describes it, it’s almost an epiphany or a religious experience that “sweeps” you into experiencing life to the fullest.
I worked for years in the eating disorder community where individuals shunned fullness in one way or another whether they stuffed or starved. It’s a sad testimonial to our society that we’ve perverted the thing that feeds us in such a way.
True fullness is found beyond stuffing or starving. And is partaken with joy, not dread.
#8 Food is … Preparation
I didn’t use the word “cooking” here because whenever you eat, you prepare your food in some way. From making a sandwich to heating ramen in the microwave to sprinkling salt on your restaurant food.
Preparing food is primal. We don’t kill the wooly mammoth anymore. But we do have to put food together in some way or another. My advice … enjoy the process!
#9 Food is … Bae
When I originally did this project, I saw T-shirts with this on it. And, when researching it, found that the term could mean anything from “poop” to “having affection for” to “baby”.
It went social-media viral, was generally adored as a word in 2014, and even found itself among the runners-up for the Oxford Dictionaries’ “Word of the Year.” So food has once again been linked to a term that’s confusing and ambiguous. UGH!
#10 Food is … the New Black
Actually, it’s all the colors of the rainbow as we keep reinventing and rehashing food into new combinations and concepts. We trim and clip the poodle until its fur is just a few tufts on supposedly appropriate parts.
Once upon a time, I was a chef and composed salads and squirted squiggles so that food looked too good to eat. And people OHH’ed and AHHH’ed. But I wondered in the long run if they really enjoyed it?
#11 Food is … Complicated
AMEN to this. Food and preparing food is so interwoven into our very being that it’s almost impossible to unwind its aspects and meanings.
Food’s not always a positive pollyanna experience. There are claws hidden underneath the gingham napkin that enshrouds those fluffy biscuits.
For sure food is definitely complicated. A blessing and a curse. Necessary but scary. Wonderful but terrible.
When food ceases to become your friend a healing has to take place. A healing to eradicate food as comfort.
And replace it with ways to soothe without food, which can be difficult for some of us because food is so readily available and those of us who have been soothing our lives with it have been doing it so … so long. But let’s replace it instead with a better way to balance your life.
If you’re not happy with the way you eat, you might want to begin to ask yourself why you do what you do with food. It’s the only way to make it less complicated. Put that in your cereal bowl and chomp on it.
#12 Food is … NOT my enemy
A food experience can also be expansive as well as ultimate satiation. Especially if you eat what you want when you want it until just satisfied and stop. The confusion begins when you use food for other reasons.
Years ago, I read somewhere “If you’re not in the body you were meant to have, you’re eating for some other reason than hunger.” What a profound statement!
It not only advocates only eating to your hunger … a novel concept. It also hints at the fact that we all have bodies that are ideal for us alone.
Bodies that don’t necessarily conform to computer-generated ideals of slimness or buffness. But ones that we’re happy with no matter what shape or size we’re in.
#13 Food is … at the shop … so I need to go shopping
I laughed out loud when I read this response. Because haven’t you ever been in this situation? More than once I’m sure.
When my book, “Gluten-Free in 5 Days”, launched a couple of years ago, I sat in my jammies at my computer for four days, did laundry three days late, and ordered in for a week.
Because I had absolutely nothing in the house. Including my coffee, which is almost unheard of.
I had a Keurig, lots of those little pods, and an attractive black-iron stand to house them that sits happily upon my kitchen counter. And all I had left in it was cappuccino and chai tea.
So I finally left the house to shop. And cooked up a ton of my fave Gluten-Free recipes like meatballs and sauce for pasta and the absolute BEST crock-pot split-pea soup. And froze them so I wouldn’t run out again. I always seem to run out of containers.
#14 Food is … free (grow your own)
I love this one too. That would be ideal … nurturing your body from the ground up.
Watching something flower and fruit that eventually nourishes you may be the ultimate in feeding. But most of us can’t do that.
I myself have a purple thumb. And trying to grow things scares me because they seem to ultimately die.
My girlfriend says that plants speak to her. Not so me. The only thing I’ve been able to grow … fortunately … is the money tree in my therapy room.
I count each sprout as a new monetary adventure. That particular plant doesn’t scare me. Perhaps that’s why it grows so unabated.
#15 Food is … chocolate
More laughing and love … and it’s a fact that most women ADORE chocolate. It’s also a fact that there are antioxidants in it called polyphenols and flavonoids. They can actually make you feel good by triggering natural endorphins and tiny amounts of anandamide, a marijuana-like brain chemical.
Chocolate has many other benefits. It can also increase blood flow to the brain, thus improving IQ and memory, lower blood pressure and stroke risk up to 20 percent, and even reduce food cravings. Research has also indicated that regular chocolate eaters were slimmer than those who abstained altogether.
Chocolate obviously is good for you. So don’t make it the enemy. I’m a real advocate that all foods are good for you if you don’t use them in excess for comfort or punishment. So just don’t eat that one-pound box all at once.
I’m a HUGE fan of down-home comfort food. That’s what I cook and eat these days. Squiggles and compositions … not so much. If it tastes GREAT I’m good.
So the heck with tiny portions and snobby waiters! Food is fun, fullness, love, and life. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Pass the popcorn!