Eating, especially at the holidays, can be fraught with confusion. How do I eat in a way that is good for me and the world I live in?
According to a 2012 study by the International Food Information Council, 52 percent of Americans believed doing their taxes was easier than figuring out how to eat healthily. Some people feel so confused about their relationship with food that they no longer like to eat in front of others for fear they will be judged.
If you eat real food and stick mostly to plants and use your body, chances are your diet will be healthy and you will be treating the world well. By real food, of course, I mean grown by a farmer. And when I say eat mostly plants, let me assure you that the “need” for meat and dairy is a food industry con.
But sticking to these simple prescriptions can be hard, especially when we are encouraged to gorge ourselves over the holidays. So I thought you might enjoy these words of wisdom from my friend Alexandra Jamieson. I’ve taken her words from a section of my new book How to Be Alive: A Guide to the Kind of Happiness that Helps the World. You can order it here.
Eat What You Really Crave—Advice from the Costar of Super Size Me
You may remember Alexandra Jamieson as Morgan Spurlock’s costar in the documentary Super Size Me, which followed Morgan as he spent a month eating only McDonald’s food to see what would happen. Alex is the author of many food books and, most recently, of Women, Food, and Desire: Embrace Your Cravings, Make Peace with Food, Reclaim Your Body. She is a chef and “functional nutrition coach.”
Alex says we should not choose some food-plan dogma to adhere to—another standard life approach—but learn to listen to our authentic selves and to eat what we really crave:
The first thing to say is that eating food is one of the best things about being a human being. We have these incredible bodies that allow us to taste and touch and smell but we forget to enjoy. We forget to enjoy our own senses.
We live so much in our heads that our bodies feel deprived. We don’t know how to taste the simple foods or be happy without spending lots of money. We’ve forgotten how to savor the taste of a simple apple.
So when I say eat what you crave, it is not just about choosing the food you want to grab for right this second. First, you need to know what truly makes you happy. It is generally not the striving and the acquiring or gorging.
It is not about denying your desire but about sitting quietly and listening to your body long enough to let it tell you what you actually want.
More than some kind of junk food, most people crave more energy, focus, strength, confidence, and peace. When you get in touch with those deeper and broader cravings you can ask, If life energy or peace is my big motivating desire, what food do I need to eat to have that? What could I eat now that would help me move in that direction?
Most often it is not the pie or potato chips. Mostly, it is real food that helps you stay in the reality of what makes for happiness. You know in your body that eating junk food isn’t going to help you stay in a place of peace (though sometimes it is what you want just for a pleasure boost and that’s okay, too).
When it comes to eating badly, the trigger may be stress or overload or even car traffic. Watch for those things that trigger you and transform the action into something that will actually help you. What can help you actually relax rather than just anaesthetizing yourself with a cookie or the drive-through?
Maybe it’s as simple as getting up and going for a short walk instead of forcing yourself to sit still at your desk. If you have a meeting with a colleague, you can even suggest to her that walking together might make your brains work better than sitting at a conference table together.
We aren’t used to really listening to ourselves, so it takes time to learn this, to know what you really want in your life and so what you really want to eat. We are habits. So watch for the triggers and transform your responses, one at a time. Be patient with yourself. Before long, you’ll learn to eat what you really crave.