On any given weekday, I am exposed to a ritual that involves the hurried and rushed consumption of food. During lunch hours in particular, we will see men and women rushing to dive into a plate or bag of food with great attachment, little to no mindfulness and even less satisfaction. It has merely become a compulsion, a physiological need, a social hour filled with snacks to calm the hunger pangs. Many times I have found myself eating this way and I must confess that it has had adverse affects upon my health and well-being. For the better part of 20 years, I battled with sickness and stomach related illness and I’m not even 40 yet. It hindered my capacity to enjoy life and threatened my very existence. My mental health began deteriorating and I developed patterns of self-defeating and self-harming behavior. The mood swings, confusion and weariness of thought took a toll on every relationship in my life. I became miserable and as I looked at my friends and my family, I realized that they too were experiencing pain and sickness in their own way. I had inherited a lifestyle and it was killing me.
We are creatures of habit and our environment has a significant influence upon our behaviors. We are surrounded by people and co-workers who are anxious and frequently frustrated with the happenings in life and on the job. While at work, we are desperately looking forward to the lunch break in order to decompress and supposedly eat a delicious meal. No matter how much time we have, it never seems to be enough and it brings about another level of frustration, especially if we are stressed about something. We are looking at our watch as we stand in line at a restaurant or eatery with the shortest wait time. We look at that our watch or phone again as we get our food and begin eating rather quickly, in order to enjoy the remaining time we have before going back to work. We did not calm our mind or balance our thoughts before eating and we subsequently experience lethargy, upset stomach and indigestion.
If you need proof of these adverse affects, just take a look at the gastrointestinal market size. It was $35.7 billion in 2015 and expected to grow to $48.4 billion by 2022. There are 937 digestive drugs currently in the research and development pipeline. Those are staggering numbers and it goes to show that we are not well. As I shared earlier, I’ve had personal experience with digestive disease. Acid Reflux, GERD and IBS were all apart of my daily existence. Not only did I have a dysfunctional relationship with food but also with myself. No one forced me to eat a certain way or a certain style. As an accountable human being, we have the freedom to eat what we want and how we want. Despite all of ideologies that permeate society, we have the capacity to choose our own path. Whether it be vegan, vegetarian, paleo, pescatarian or any other designation that we can think of, it is up to us to find what works for our personal life.
No matter what path we choose, we must eat REAL FOOD in a spirit of gratitude. The emphasis is on FOOD and not food products. The body recognizes when it is presented with life and responds accordingly. To consume healthy fruits and vegetables, is a reunion of sorts, a return to origin, a partaking of the body with the same essence that makes up its constitution. The simplicity in that truth must not be overlooked. In other words, you are what you eat, or rather you become what you consume. How we eat is equally important. It’s not a frivolous temporary pleasure or a quick thoughtless need for the body. At its core, it is a miracle, an evolutionary transformative process. Our being can utilize real food as the building blocks for a healthy physical body and a fluid mind in the span of hours. It is truly magical when you think about it. There’s an intelligence that informs our system and It knows what to do with real food and our health flourishes as a result. With all of these wonders abounding, we should definitely employ mindfulness as we eat. If we are mindful, we will then be grateful. Reflecting on the sacrifice of those who planted and harvested our meal, we respond in kindness as we offer our food as a token of appreciation. That way we can practice Dharma as we eat in freedom, not bound by the shackles of compulsion and reap the benefits of a peaceful life and a healthy body.