Today I’m super excited to bring you a guest post by Debra Joy. Welcome, Debra!
Note from Sylvie: I’ve written before about how stress can negatively affect our health and how health is not achieved just by focusing on what we eat… Today Debra expands on that topic and makes a few points I think you’ll love. Enjoy!
How to Enjoy Food Again (even on a Restricted Diet)
When you’re dealing with IBD, IBS, SIBO, or struggling to lose weight, eating can become a confusing, guilt-ridden, and painful, source of stress, rather than a pleasurable source of nourishment.
Challenges with food don’t just affect your digestion. They impact most aspects of your life. Our culture revolves around food. We socialize, celebrate and support each other with it. We have business meetings over lunch, first dates over coffee, and our book clubs are really thinly disguised gastronomic get-togethers.
Rather than revel in the fun of friendships, social events become riddled with anxiety, and that just makes your situation worse.
But there is a way to indulge in the joy of food again. I know from experience.
I was first diagnosed with IBS as a young child, when it was called Spastic Colon. I suffered quietly with bloating and painful cramping for hours after meals. I would experience long periods of “remission” only for it to reappear with greater intensity.
During my teens I would often double over after eating, lying in a fetal position, crying. Not a fun party trick. In my thirties the stabbing cramps became so bad that I passed out a few times, once in the middle of a board meeting. Not a career highlight. At 37 I had to quit work due to the shooting pain and debilitating fatigue. I found myself alone in bed, in agony and in search of meaning.
Hollywood Homestead didn’t exist back then. There was no one place I could go for an aggregate of trustworthy information. I studied everything I could find and I found a lot of contradictions. I saw doctors and specialists. I took drugs, (that made my condition worse), and supplements (that seemed to make no difference). I had regular appointments with an osteopath, homeopath and naturopath. I went for massage, acupuncture, ayurvedic and chiropractic treatments. Even in my ever-weakening state, I did cranio-sacral therapy, dance therapy, art therapy and talk therapy. I was diagnosed with celiac disease, changed my diet yet again, and still my symptoms worsened.
During those years, eating was a terrifying game of Russian roulette. Will this set off the un-soothable burning in my throat? Will this trigger that feeling of glass moving through my intestines? Will this next bite make my colon feel like it’s being pumped up like an inner tube and twisted by strong invisible hands?
Whether you’re worried about the potential for pain or weight gain, concerned about pesticides, fat content or nutritional density, when you fret about food you make your condition worse. You also miss out on the sensuous satisfaction that food can bring, then find yourself longing for more.
So what’s the solution?
Along with treatment and education, I discovered during my darkest days that simple pleasures were powerful at healing my body, mind and soul.
Bring back the enjoyment of eating by turning each mouthful into a meditation. Whatever condition you’re dealing, meditation will help:
- Boost your immune function.
- Reduce pain and inflammation.
- Decreases anxiety, stress and depression.
- Reduce loneliness and boost your sense of connection.
- Improve your self-control.
- Strengthen your resilience.
If you already meditate, I invite you to add this sumptuous sadhana to your day. If you’ve never meditated, you’re in for a treat. I’m going to teach you a simple practice that can bring you pleasure several times a day.
Meditation is simply the practice of giving your mind an anchor to focus on. The smaller the area of focus, the greater your focus will be.
For this meditation your anchor is the food that you put in your mouth.
For the first bite of everything you eat, (whether you’re sitting down to a three course meal, or just grabbing a cracker), do this:
- Inhale the aroma. Most food’s flavor comes through smell.
- Notice how you feel. Does your body still want this?
- Take a small bite and hold it in your mouth. Don’t chew yet.
- Feel the texture, temperature and taste on your tongue and against your palate. Notice how you feel.
- Chew slowly and notice the changes in texture and taste with every bite.
- Crush the food until it is mostly liquid. Feel the sensations on your tongue.
- Swallow. Breathe. Notice how your body feels.
When you focus on eating this way your body relaxes. That aids your digestion. You can close your eyes to increase your focus. Fully indulging in your food can help you eat less and enjoy food more, feel better in your body and more satisfied in your life.
This practice will help you become more present to your body’s wisdom, increase your sense of peace and enhance your pleasure.
If feel you don’t have enough time to always eat like this, just do it for your first bite. After your first bite, do it only for as many bites as you’d like.
I recommend you do this with something simple that you know is not a trigger for you. Then you can experiment slowly with new foods.
Doing this regularly you’ll discover that your body will start guiding you to the foods it needs and wants. You may find you’ve been eating foods that don’t really agree with you. Over time your palate may change.
After years of doing this I’ve learned to trust my body’s wisdom. When craving oysters I discovered I was low in zinc. Turns out oysters are full of zinc. After months of eating oranges with bone broth my nutritionist told me that vitamin C, (in the oranges), is necessary for the synthesis of collagen, (in the broth). My body knew it before I learned it.
One thing that gets in the way of fully experiencing the pleasure of eating, and hearing the wisdom of your body, is addiction. It’s too big a subject to cover in this post, but you’ll find solutions and many more pleasurable practices in my book: The Power of Pleasure.
Debra Joy has been helping people achieve success in their careers, satisfaction in their relationships, and peace in their bodies through the power of pleasure for over a decade. With her past award-winning career in socially responsible investment, Masters in Leadership, and Yoga teacher training, she brings her eclectic and effective blend of business brains and body wisdom to her work.