Thursday, March 29, 2012

It's Not Just Food That Feeds Us

There’s another very important element to eating well, and that’s dining together.

There’s even a biblical reference that “man does not live by bread alone.” It’s true. We need each other.

Aside from whatever nutritional properties our food might provide, I believe there’s also an alchemy that’s directly related to the social environment in which we eat. No matter how healthy a plate you have in front of you, eating food in a setting where your heart can be nurtured at the same time is the recipe for actually thriving.

Sitting down with other people in a non-stressful atmosphere not only makes food taste better, but it also affects how it’s metabolized inside your body.

But if you bring anger, or even just irritability, to the table, it can set the stage overeating and indigestion. This may sound radical, but if you’re trying to eat in an atmosphere of conflict, you’d be better off eating a hot dog in a less stressful setting.

(There’s another biblical reference that weighs a plate of herbs against a fattened calf; the better meal has love as an ingredient. My take is, it could be either.)

I suggest inviting people to dinner on a regular basis; at least twice a month. There can be a certain lightness and pure enjoyment to be gained from that because you bring a different part of yourself to the table; maybe a more elevated part of yourself.

Of course we know that’s not always the case.

If you regularly get together with people who are critical, negative, and spend most of the time complaining; you don’t tend to come away truly nourished. (I’ll include myself here, because there are times when any of us can slip into that!) Those may be the very situations where people are more inclined to overeat because, regardless of how much food they might eat, their hearts are starving in that setting.

If you understand what your needs are, it’s more likely they’ll be met because then you can be more purposeful about seeing that it happens.

If you want to feel optimistic about life, dinner table conversation shouldn’t revolve around how bad things are, and the lack of options for getting better. That kind of chatter carries a low, bottom-dredging frequency that will send your guests dragging out the door as you retreat to the dishes. Even if it’s just your family, dinner isn’t the time to talk about the bad habits that irritate you, your kid’s sliding grades, or how much you hate your job. (The caveat here, of course, would be if you’re moving from one point to explore solutions.)

The “heavy heart” is not just a metaphor. Neither is the “hungry heart.”

In a larger, but very real sense, people sit down together to find encouragement and support, and to talk of possibilities and the prospects for positive outcomes. Also, in a very real sense, those are the kinds of gatherings that feed our hearts.

Sharing meals with other people is a way to stay invested in eating well. It’s true. We need each other.

Just make sure you pick the right people.

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