With the summer solstice🌞soon making its appearance on Sunday, June 20, it's time to celebrate the inner wisdom of the watermelon 🍉. The primary message of the solstice is to SLOW DOWN! And what better food than a big juicy slice of watermelon with seeds to help us do that? To start, you can't just bite into a watermelon the way you do an apple or a strawberry. You've got to slice it up (more on that in the next blog). And then - least with the organic non-GMO types - you've got to make your way through each bite, spitting out the seeds as you go. This alone is usually a fun activity. So, as a tribute to the watermelon, let's explore what food has to teach us about slowing down.
The American Obsession with Speed
Unfortunately, our societal relationship with food is highly symbolic of our culture's need for speed: There's no doubt about it. We want things fast. Microwave meals in 5 minutes or less! Lose 10 pounds in a week! If you don't get your food within three minutes, your next meal is free! And now, 5G is being thrown up all across the planet because, according to the commercials, at least, 'it's what America wanted.' (Frankly, I don't know anyone who was complaining that the internet wasn't fast enough, but that's another subject.) In any case, mix in an ability to attend meetings and events from virtually anywhere and, suddenly, it seems we've got more than ever to do, despite the fact that there are still only 24 hours in a day. Eating on the run or while driving or while attending a meeting with the camera turned off are common eating habits.
Feeding the Five Senses
We derive most of our pleasure through our five senses. There is absolutely nothing better than food to satisfy each of those senses. While it can be argued that sex fulfills this role, how many of us have sex every day, let alone three times a day? (No need to reply 🤪). Further, the colors, tastes, and textures that are available through food are far more vast than those achieved any other way. Food’s ability to feed our physical senses is a fundamental principle that has gone highly unrecognized but has tremendous potential to alter our attitude toward food. Unfortunately, our technological society has numbed our senses. Sitting in front of our computers all day does little to feed our senses, aside from seeing words pop up on the screen, the feeling of our fingertips on the keyboard, and the clicking in our ears. Why is it that when we go to the movies we have to have something to munch on? Because the movie feeds only our senses of sight and sound (we see and hear the movie). Our senses of touch, taste, and smell still hunger. What do we do to remedy this situation? Eat popcorn🍿!
This is why television 🖥 viewing and obesity are so closely correlated (as well as the fact that couch potatoes aren’t moving their muscles except to blink their eyes and maintain a heartbeat). By getting that bucket of popcorn, we now have something that can satisfy all of our senses. Let’s use an apple 🍎to explore the fact that food literally feeds our five senses better than anything else. Following is an exercise that both children and adults can try:
Take an apple and place it in front of you. Look at the apple with your eyes👀. What color is it? Is it red 🍎, green 🍏, or yellow? Is it dirty? Is it shiny?
Touch the apple with your hands🖐🏽. How does it feel? Is it firm or soft? Is it cold or room temperature?
Smell the apple with your nose👃🏻. Does it have a sweet scent?
Hear👂🏾the apple crunch as you bite into it. What sounds do you hear? Skin breaking? Chewing? Juices being released?
Taste the apple with your mouth (your tongue👅and taste buds). How does it taste? Sweet? Tart? Other?
Perhaps surprisingly, digestion begins before we even put food into our mouth. That’s because when we see, touch, smell, or hear about food, our salivary glands begin to secrete enzymes that will further the digestive process. We then chew on the food to begin breaking it down into smaller pieces that the body can more easily handle. This is an area where it is really important to slow down. It is not uncommon for people to chow down a
meal within minutes. Eating too fast leads to poor communication between the stomach and the brain and to incomplete digestion of food. It’s important to chew food well enough to facilitate absorption of the nutrients and to avoid constipation. Can you imagine the poor intestinal wall facing huge particles of food that have not been chewed and broken down very well? Yikes! Remember, we are in a cocreative relationship with our bodies—that means we need to make sure we do our part and don’t just expect our bodies to handle everything with magical ease.
Eating too fast leads to:
Meals are meant to be enjoyed rather than simply chowed down. In many countries, a meal often lasts several hours. In fact, one of Greece’s dietary guidelines, its version of our USDA dietary guidelines, is to "eat slowly, preferably at regular times of the day, and in a pleasant environment." This is called mindful eating. Mindful eating involves taking time to savor all aspects of food, as well as the act of eating. A traditional Japanese tea
ceremony, for example, includes a role for each of the senses—watching and listening as the tea pours from pot to cup, picking up the cup and feeling the heat, smelling the freshly steeped herbs, and, lastly, tasting the brew.
Mindful eating can cultivate seeds of compassion and understanding that will strengthen us to be more present in the world. We do not need to go to a temple or a church in order to practice this concept. Because our bodies house the sacred, we can practice presence at the table.
Stay tuned for my next blog where we'll explore yet another summer school lesson on behalf of food!
With summer blessings,
A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with degrees in nutrition and spirituality, Lisa is uniquely qualified to help us understand our dynamic relationship with food. Her passion about the unbreakable links between food and spirituality is the result of over twenty years of academic, professional, and personal exploration. In 1987, she graduated from UC Berkeley with a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics and received the Nutrition Sciences Departmental Citation Award. In 1990, she earned a Master’s Degree in Public Health Nutrition from UC Berkeley with High Honors. In 1996, she obtained a Master’s Degree in Culture and Creation Spirituality from Holy Names College, and is a Shamanic Soul Coach with certification from the Integrative Arts Institute. She is the Founder of the Imperfectly Vegan movement and author of The Sacred Art of Eating.
A sustainable lifestyle for ourselves and the planet.