But you know what? It’s never about money. Money is a symptom of the heart. How we use, abuse or lust after money is a symptom of our deep inner selves. That’s why it’s so hard.
I think the same is true with food. It’s never about the food itself. Well, maybe sometimes. We need to eat to live; and there is a sensual enjoyment to the craft of cuisine.
But for many, it’s about more than food.
Growing up I never really thought about it. I ate what my parents made for meals and saved up change to buy chips at the hockey arena.
Then I went to university. I stopped playing hockey and running track and field (and exercising in general), settled in to a more sedentary lifestyle, and next thing you know I put on 25 pounds. Combine that with pub nights, the daily food court choices of all-fast-food, and you start to realize how those choices impact your health. It was harder to concentrate and generally feel “up.”
Fortunately, I’m back in shape again and pretty committed to a healthy lifestyle. It’s work. But food can be a mystery. I can be “full” but still want another bowl of pasta.
I came across a book called Women, Food and God by Geneen Roth. (Don’t ask me why a guy like me read this book, long story), but it was very illuminating—beyond what I would have imagined. Perhaps the allure was in the subtitle: “An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything.” Roth has counselled thousands upon thousands about this whole food thing. Quite often its to people experiencing body issues—which are, of course, deep currents.
Some people over-eat because in their minds they feel they need to atone for wrongs. Others do it to find comfort. Or perhaps they’re looking for acceptance—and yet the very indulgence causes guilt that continues a crippling cycle.
Add into the mix a multi-billion dollar food industry and the downward preoccupation with un-realistic body images and no wonder people are going nuts.
But make no mistake about it: How we eat can also be a spiritual concern. And an intellectual, emotional and political concern.
The hunger is usually for something more than food.
This is all why I find her guidelines (or, as I say, “rules”) such a powerful re-centering. Here they are:
1. Eat when you are hungry.
2. Eat sitting down in a calm environment. This does not include the car.
3. Eat without distractions. Distractions include radio, telephone, newspapers, books, intense or anxiety-provoking conversations or music. (Personal note: To this I would add smart phones)
4. Eat what your body wants.
5. Eat until you are satisfied.
6. Eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others.
7. Eat with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure.
There you have it. They are deceptively simple; and wonderfully profound. (I have 3 small kids so I’m not sure I ever eat in a “calm environment,” but here’s to hoping.)
If you want an ice cream cone, go ahead. But observe the rules. It’s amazing how you’ll start to uncover the pleasure of food, but also the spiritual discipline of seeing and accepting yourself with greater clarity.
As poet Galway Kinnell writes: “sometimes it is necessary to reteach a thing its loveliness.”
I don’t know who’s reading this or what your issues are. Maybe you seriously wrestle with food and over-eating and you think I’m just some punk who doesn’t know what it’s really like to struggle. Or maybe you are someone who has never thought of food in this way and are starting to see how it connects with your deeper yearnings.
Whoever you are, food is a part of your life. And how you use or abuse it affects your wellness and your capacity to succeed.
Might it also point you to a deeper hunger? Throw up a sail and go exploring.
The last word goes to Roth: “Passion, strength, joy cannot take root in exhausted, burdened, half-dead bodies.”