Gratitude Month Week 3: Grateful for Food
This week I want to discuss why it is so important for you to be grateful for your food. We buy it each week, eat it every day, but do we every give thanks to it? Many cultures and religions do give thanks as in a prayer or in Japan they have a practice of beginning their meals with the phrase, “itadakimasu” which literally means “I humbly receive.” The phrase has roots in gratitude and expressing gratitude for all who played a role in your meal. From the farmers who planted and grew the food, to the ranchers, to the harvesters, to the grocery store clerks, to you washing, cooking and preparing the food.
There is a beautiful process of gratitude when it comes to our food and when we can be more mindful about it you will feel a deeper respect and love for your food. This helps transform your belief in food and can create a deeper appreciation for what it can do for your body, mind and soul.
When we can connect to something larger than ourselves we can reap the delicious benefits we receive from our meals. We can step into a state of gratitude which is a deep-felt sense of appreciation for all the interconnected ways we were able to eat every day. This gratitude can help us better understand what is larger than the reach of our arms or the strength of our hands. We can acknowledge the gift of life that helped feed us; the sun that warmed the earth, the water that nourished the seeds, the animals that have been taken care of so we can enjoy them at our table.
Entering as participants in this intricate web of life can change us and we do this by adding more gratitude into our life. Research has shown that the power of gratitude can heal. It can build your ability to show compassion, generosity, forgiveness and love of self. It can make you a better person and opens up your heart and mind the beauty and awe of the world around us. When you can shift our perspective every time we sit for a meal, you can advance your journey to gratitude.
Being mindful of eating our meals will open you up to a greater understanding of your place in this world. Taking time to reflect, acknowledge and appreciate the beauty of the leaves on each plant, the seeds and grain, the fruits, flesh from furred, feathered and finned beings can help you understand that we are part of a bigger whole.
Erica Bauermeister is the author of the book, The School of Essential Ingredients. She believes that “every time we prepare food, we interrupt a life cycle. We pull up a carrot or kill a crab or even stop the mold on a wedge of cheese, we are changing one life cycle for another. We give life to something else in the meal that we are preparing for ourselves. It seems like a pretty basic equation, but if we don’t acknowledge one part, we miss the important lesson in life where we give respect to both sides of the equation.” Indigenous people would reciprocate and leave a piece of their hair for a plants’ sustenance. Hunters would show gratitude and honor the life of the animal after a kill, thanking the animals spirit for the food it will bring them.
In our fast-paced world, this little bit of gratitude has taken a back seat and rarely is shown. Becoming gratefully aware of our interdependence in our world will only increase as we think about and show gratitude for what we consume daily. Here is a quick lesson; think of a carrot. Does it surprise you that it is a brightly colored orange while growing underground? Do you know why it is orange or how that color and the minerals and vitamins in that plant can help you grow and become strong?
Taking a moment to connect with the food that you eat can help you de-stress as well as help you create a happier and healthier relationship with food. Proper digestion starts in the brain when you think about what you are hungry for and what you want to make for yourself. This process is necessary to create a healthy relationship with food so your mind, body and soul can reap the benefits of the meals you make for yourself.
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you and give thanks continuously. Because all things that have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Gratitude can shift you from being a taker to a maker and from being disconnected to participating in life. The next meal you make take time to truly reflect on all parts of the meal and give thanks for everything. Think of the following:
· I give thanks for the food I am about to enjoy.
· I thank the farmers for growing the sweet potato, broccoli, wheat, sugar and other ingredients that went into the creation of this meal.
· I thank Mother Nature for nurturing the fields that this food grows.
· I thank the farmers for cultivating, harvesting, picking and processing the food.
· I thank the delivery drivers for driving the produce to my neighborhood.
· I thank my mother for teaching me how to cook and sharing recipes.
· I thank everyone and everything that went into the creation of this food.
· I thank the Universe for the opportunity to eat and not starve as millions of people in the world are not able to enjoy a meal today.
If you are in a restaurant you can add the following:
· I thank the chefs of this restaurant for their expertise in creating a magical dish.
· I thank the wait staff for taking my order, making suggestions and serving my food.
· I thank my friend for joining me in this meal.
When you are eating your meal, become more mindful with the food. Take time to smell the flavors in the dish. What can you detect? Take time savor each bite. Notice how it tastes on your tongue. Chew slowly and try to figure out what spices were used or what sauce was used. Swallow it and feel it go down your throat and fill your belly. Slowing down while eating is a great way to help your digestion as well as keep your weight down. It takes 20 minutes for your belly to tell the brain that you are full. If you are eating your meal in less than 20 minutes, you are not giving your body enough time to register that you don’t need seconds.
Here are seven ways to help you become more grateful for your food:
1. Volunteer at a Food Bank
Hunger hits all of our neighborhoods. Take time to help out in your neighborhood so you can see how hard hit it can be. This is a great way to get a reality check on how fortunate you are by volunteering your time. Find a food bank, soup kitchen or local non-profit that needs help on a weekly basis prepping food for their meals or create a neighborhood PB&J sandwich making day to make lunches for the homeless in your community. You can also find someone in your neighborhood who could use a little help. Maybe there is an older neighbor who isn’t able to cook as much anymore. You could make up some small meals and freeze them and deliver them weekly. Offer to take them to the grocery store or make up a big pot of chili or soup and give them a weeks worth in jars to keep in their fridge.
2. Befriend a Farmer
I love the Farmer’s Markets and I always connect with the small farmers when I really enjoy their produce over the summer. Connect with them and learn what they do to make such great tasting food for you and thank them. It’s easy to forget that we can walk into any store and be able to find just about any type of produce we want. When you meet the farmer, you get to know the whole story of everything that has to happen before you get to reach for that cucumber, zucchini or apple. Ask them how the food is grown, what problems did they have to endure that growing season and what they do to get the food from the fields to the market or grocery store. Knowing that the farmer has sleepless nights or worries about what the frost may have done to their crops gives you a better perspective and some compassion for what they go through in order for you to eat.
3. Plant Your Own Garden
It is so easy to plant a garden, even if you live in an apartment you can plant so many types of vegetables in pots on your patio, balcony or even in your living room. Find the seeds that you want to grow, make sure they are proper for your climate and soil and read the directions on when to plant them. Make sure you learn about the proper soil for each plant. Nurture them with proper water and nutrients as well as offering sunlight on a daily basis. There are so many great things you can grow; lettuce, kale, cucumber, tomatoes, peppers can all be grown in pots as well as in the ground or planter boxes. Zucchini, yellow squash, pumpkin and beans are best where they can grow long as their vines will take up room.
4. Volunteer on a Farm
You can often find neighborhood farms or small parcels of land that you can help cultivate over the summer and fall to reap the benefits of the produce. Local farms are also a great place to volunteer and what a great way to get your whole family involved so your kids know where their food comes from and the intensive measures it takes to get it to the grocery store. It is always beneficial to teach your children gratitude for their food, not just by praying before each meal, but by showing them how it all works. Take three months of time to volunteer once a week at a farm next summer and see how it can change your family. Most who do this, really learn to appreciate their food more. You’ll never take your salad for granted again.
5. Be a Mindful Eater
You already eat three meals a day. You put the food in your mouth, you chew, you swallow and repeat. Do you remember what you made for breakfast this morning? Can you describe it to me in detail? If not, you need to become more mindful with your meals. Do you actually sit down to eat? Do you turn off the TV, computer and don’t look at emails when you eat? Do you concentrate on the food that you are putting in your mouth? When you can eat your meal with the focus on the food you will gain a much better appreciation for yourself and your body. Share your meal with a loved one or even better get your loved ones involved in creating the meal. Have your family pick out a different recipe each week and designate a day that you all help in buying, preparing, cooking and enjoying the meal. As you all sit and prepare to eat the meal, take a moment to smell it. What do you smell? Have everyone take one bite and chew slowly savoring it on your tongue and describe what spices they can detect. Swallow and take a drink of water. See if you can do this three times with your family before they start “shoveling” the food down.
6. Create a Food Gratitude List
If you have been feeling in a food rut or are frustrated as you are trying to lose weight, but it doesn’t seem to be working, one of the best ways to change this is to create a food gratitude list. Just write down this sentence and add to it:
“I am glad I can eat this/these_____________________ (fill in the food) because it _____________________(fill in whatever health benefit it offers you).”
“I am glad I can eat these eggs, because they give me a boost of energy every morning so I can do my work and not be hungry before my lunch break.”
“I am grateful for this sweet potato, because it gives me strength to lift heavy weights in my workout routine.”
“I am grateful for my gluten free bread, because it helps my tummy not become bloated and upset so I can be comfortable working all afternoon.”
7. Become a Mindful Chef
Cooking tends to become something we cram into our busy lives. My rule is whatever I can make in 30 minutes or less during the weekdays so that I can enjoy some downtime after work. Some days you may run out of the house grabbing a piece of toast or bagel and eat on the way to work. Other days you are rushing to slap a sandwich together before your doctor’s appointment. Some days we are just plain exhausted and stopping to make ourselves a meal seems like a chore and not something fun. If you find that you are ordering in or going out more than twice a week, we need to shift this paradigm. On the weekends, make the time to think about what types of meals you want through the week. Do you have all the ingredients? Do you have a recipe in mind? Take the time to slow down, put on some music and take your time with the recipe and the meal. Make this a part of your day to enjoy and not dread. How can you do that for yourself? When you create a meal for yourself you are creating self-care and promoting self-love. Both of these are important for your growth as a human. The act of making yourself an amazing meal will boost your mood, increase your happiness factor and make you feel like you achieved something that day. It could be making yourself a PB&J and that’s okay- you did it just for you and used the best ingredients to make the best PB&J on the planet! Treat your meal planning and cooking process as something to savor and enjoy daily. It can magically transform from being a chore into a precious self-love gift that you get to enjoy every day.
How are you grateful for your food?