The Great Food Disconnect

Hello and welcome to a brand new week! Not sure about where you guys are, but fall hit Illinois like a brick this weekend with that perfect cool crisp weather. I was a happy camper, so happy that I was compelled to start my fall baking! Needless to say, it has been a good weekend here at our house.

For the past few Monday’s I have been talking about eating and the senses (in case you totally missed that little fact). I’ve covered taste, smell, and sight (via portion control). I think that sound and touch will be a little difficult to write an entire post about, but I will include them in today’s post. Today I want to talk about a problem that I see with the way that the typical American approaches their food and meal time in general.

Most people see meals as another task that they need to get through and then move on to the next thing on their long list. Most meals are quick, eaten on the go or in the car, or even worse skipped. People just don’t have time to slow down and eat leisurely, three-course meals. I sure don’t!  But I think that this mentality about eating is one of the hidden problems with our health issues. I call it the great food disconnect, mostly because there isn’t a real “official” name for it. We barely take the time to eat, so we in turn barely take the time to really experience our food. I know, I know. That sounds so new age-y and a little ridiculous to “experience” food, but stick with me on this one. I promise that I haven’t gone off the deep end.

Experiencing your food really allows you to enjoy what you are eating and also to fully use what you are eating to your advantage. What exactly do I mean when I say experiencing your food? I mean using all of your senses when sitting down and eating. Whether you realize it or not your meal starts the moment you start making that meal. And for those of you who do not make your own meals, your meal starts when that plate is put in front of you. But the minute that you start prepping your meal, your brain and in turn your body are preparing to eat. The sight of food, the smell of the spices and sauces, the feel of heat from the oven, the little test tastes of your dish, the sizzle of your steak on the grill are all signals that are being sent to your brain telling your body that food is on the way. Your body starts making the necessary enzymes and microbes it will take to break down that food and use it. These are necessary steps that your body needs to really reap the benefits of that food.

When you rush through a meal or just grab something on the run and are not paying attention to what you are shoveling into your mouth, your brain doesn’t have the time to prep your body. Your digestive system is rudely awaken by a sudden and quick influx of food, and it has to scramble to get things ready. It is a stressful situation for your system, even if it doesn’t feel like it to you, and putting food into a stressful environment generally means it won’t be used to it’s full advantage. Our rush, rush, rush lives cause enough problems for us, so why add to that with eating?

Contrary to popular opinion, eating should be enjoyable. You should really like eating. It’s great! There are so many flavors and textures and tastes. And is there anything better than sharing a good meal with great people? Think about your Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners. They are probably (mostly) filled with great memories of good times. You wait all year to eat your Grandma’s pumpkin pie or your Mom’s special cranberry sauce. A lot of diets and health people out there will tell you that the reason we have so many problems with weight is that we have too familiar a relationship with food. We need to distance ourselves and treat food as just a means of fuel for our body and cut all the emotion from our meal times. While I believe that some of this is true, emotional eating can lead to many problems (think bad breakup and a pint of Haggan Das) I think that distancing ourselves from food is a bigger problem. It turns food into an enemy that you are constantly battling against, and that is tiresome.

I propose that we try something new when it comes to eating our food. I suggest that we really take the time to savor what we are eating. I know that not everyone will have the time to do this every day, but try to find one meal a week that you can really put some time into. Find a recipe that sounds delicious. Shop for the ingredients yourself and select the best that you can. Take the time and turn those ingredients into a tasty meal. Then sit down with friends or family and savor the meal that you just prepared. Really taste the food that you lovingly turned into a dish to nourish your body. Smell all those wonderful spices and flavors you used to season your food. Enjoy the company that you have around you and make some memories out of dinner. Does it take time to do this? Yes, but it is worth it. You get to really connect with something that is about to be a part of your body and help you accomplish all those tasks you have on your list.  Like I said, I know that you don’t have time to do this every meal, every day, but you do have the time to be conscious of the food you eat. Whether you made it, your mom made it, or the guy at the drive-thru made it, take just a few minutes to be aware of your food. Your body and your health will thank you!

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