Over the last month, I’ve enjoyed watching a series on Netflix called Chef’s Table. Featuring chefs from around the world, the show offers a unique perspective of what really goes into cooking, from the chef’s perspective. It takes into consideration sourcing, preparation, and chemistry, but it also takes into consideration emotions and life experiences as they relate not only to the meal but the history of that meal, because every meal has a story and every story has power.
Intentions as Fuel
Food is not just a means to an end. If we want to get the most out of our meals, we must cultivate care and intimacy with our ingredients. Then, we must bring them together in a conscientious way that shows respect for the role that food plays in our lives. Our intentions have real power that affects the potency of our food and our body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
The film What the Bleep Do We Know? talks about the power of our thoughts and emotions on us and the things around us, documenting scientific research that shows how molecules change based on the energy we carry. Supporting this notion, The Longevity Book by Cameron Diaz offers an insightful look into how the body works at a cellular level and how our cells are affected by our thoughts and emotions. What we feel and the type of attention we pay to ourselves and the world around us physically changes our cells and how they perform. Naturally, this has an effect on how we relate to food and how our bodies process food.
The Enjoyment Factor
Think about it. If you are happy and joyful when you sit down to enjoy your favorite meal prepared by your favorite cook, do you enjoy it? Yes, you do. Probably to the nth degree! To boot, you probably feel great after eating it, even if it’s not the healthiest meal on the planet. This is because your body released hormones and chemicals to support the meal, and the meal was prepared by a person with great passion and excitement for the dish, infusing the food with that energetic quality through careful preparation. When you ingested it, you were not just ingesting ingredients, you were ingesting the feelings and intentions behind them, and you were in a place to recognize the experience.
Now turn the tables. Say you are in a bad mood. You have been on the verge of crying or screaming all day. You order your favorite meal but you lack the appreciation or excitement for it because your mind is elsewhere. Do you enjoy it? Maybe. But it probably lacks the depth of flavor that you expect. Maybe it tastes flat or off. This is because your body perceived the meal differently and secreted different chemicals, including cortisol, which inhibits insulin production and increases glucose levels. That changes your appetite and sensory perceptions. As a result, you may have eaten the meal but perhaps instead of satisfied you feel uncomfortably full or unchanged.
Mindful Meals for Better Digestion
I am learning that perhaps the most important ingredient in any meal is mindfulness. Approaching food and eating with forethought of how that food will affect us is a strong platform for good health. Ultimately, it creates an experience that transcends merely consuming food. If we recognize that sourcing, cooking, plating, and attitude all make a difference with nutrition, we can begin to understand how each element comes together to affect flavor and ultimately digestion. Sensing flavor is, after all, one of the first steps in the digestive process. A person gets more out of eating when the whole experience is taken in to consideration.
The Power of Meal Rituals
Adding ritual to our meals can help us create fulfilling experiences even if we aren’t feeling exceptionally creative. For instance, I find breakfast to hold a magical place in my life. Mornings are my favorite time of day. The break of dawn is a beautiful metaphor for the break of fast. It’s the time between time; the space between action and inaction. It’s the time to set myself up for positive experiences and cultivate a healthy attitude that will carry me through my day. Plus, I digest best at this point in the day, before my monkey mind has had a chance to get the rest of the body riled up.
The Morning Ritual
My morning ritual usually involves waking up before other members of the household. I do Reiki and meditate, then I prepare my breakfast. I begin with 16 ounces of water to prepare digestion and hydrate the body. Then, I create my meal, send it a blessing or mantra, and take it outside, where I am serenaded by the songs of mockingbirds and finches. The aural resonances of their music is perfect accompaniment to the flavors and textures of the food. My mind is too busy absorbing the beauty of sound, taste, touch, smell, and sight to think. I’m simply present with my food and nourished from the inside out. That’s where the magic lies.
About the Author: Andrea Stuart is an RYT-500 Yoga Instructor and Reiki Practitioner. She is also a wellness advocate, food and libation sensualist, and editor for Up.St.ART Annapolis Magazine and 65˚ Magazine. In her blogs, she blends her experiences with health and wellness with her love of the written word. To learn more about her, visit her website at www.andrea-stuart.com