You can eat whatever feels right for you, physically, spiritually, morally and mentally.
– What Intuitive Eating Is Not… Christie Inge
I know all about the physical. That’s what most of us focus our eating on. If I eat this, I will lose weight and it will transform my physical presence. If I eat this, it will taste amazing and delight my physical senses. If I eat this, I will be satisfied and not be hungry again in an hour. But if we just focus on the physical outcome of eating we are missing the other three parts of the equation.
How can my eating feel right for me mentally? Do some foods make me fuzzy and tired or awake and wired? Caffeine is an example of a mental result from eating (drinking). A sugary hit in the afternoon makes me both physically energetic and mentally alert – but only for a short while before I crash. I chose to eat food that keeps me alert during the day and relaxed before bed. My brain drives my actions and behaviours and I want it to be functioning at its best.
But how are our food choices moral and spiritual? Obviously, choosing not to eat meat could be seen as a moral decision, a stance against the slaughter of life forms that have a valued place in the Universe. But I’m not a vegetarian or a vegan. I eat loads of bacon, chicken and steak. What is a moral choice for me?
Morals can be described as “Concerned with the principles of right and wrong behavior and the goodness or badness of human character”. Oh no, are we are talking goodness/badness in relation to food? That is contrary to the whole intuitive eating paradigm which states there are no bad foods. I don’t think exploring our moral reaction to food choices is about the food, it is about how the decision to eat something aligns with our core values.
I have formulated rules for my life. Yes, I did say rules. In the same way that killing or hurting another human being is a rule, not a guideline, I do have rules. I will no longer engage in self-abuse or self-hatred. Eating until I am bloated and nauseous is breaking that rule. I can not binge because for me it is morally wrong. I cannot eat in secret and hide the evidence because it is lying to myself and violating my moral code of authenticity. I cannot count calories because it disregards my commitment to trusting my body.
And as for the spiritual? The way that I eat is a reflection of the way that I chose to live. I chose to focus on the most important thing that gives meaning to my life — love. If I am absorbed with how and what I eat then it robs me of energy that I can invest in loving myself and others. Food is such a small part of a great big life and is given far too much attention. I don’t need to remember what I ate yesterday, and I don’t need to document how I felt before, during and after eating a meal, I just need to make a choice that is in alignment with my philosophy and get on with the next thing. Family dinners aren’t about the food, they are about connecting with people. I can connect whether I eat the bread or not. I can enjoy Easter whether I eat hot cross buns or not. I might decide to have one, or I might decide not to. Agonising over the decision makes a celebration turn into an excruciating experience.
How we decide what to eat is a private conversation that contemplates the four aspects of our existence. We can no longer choose with only a physical sensibility if we want to finally rid ourselves of eating stuff we know does us harm and plunges us into depths of disappointment and struggle. Is your food doing you good physically, mentally, spiritually and morally? Is your relationship with food balancing the four parts of your psyche or just one or two?