For the season of Easter I made a commitment to practice resurrection of the body, both my own body and the Earth's body. It has been a good process as I continue to discover places of my own healing and how they are woven together with the healing of the greater body.
As a part of this journey I started seeing a nutritionist whose approach to food I love. When we first sat down and she asked about my previous experiences with seeing a nutritionist, I told her that the couple of times I had gone before they had me try different variations of a detox diet, which never made me feel any better and just contributed to my confusion over what are the right things to eat. I also have a somewhat ambivalent view toward supplements because I have taken many over the years with unclear results, find them expensive, and feel like I should be getting my nutrition from food. She smiled and we went through the session, she recommended several foods to try to help with some of the health issues I am dealing with and at the end I asked her opinion on detox and supplements. "I rarely use them"–she replied, "I want to bring back the pleasure to eating and try to address nutritional deficiencies with food." I knew right then I could work with her. She is a big proponent of eating whole foods, preferably (as in the case of milk) in their raw, natural form as well as fermented foods that help digestion. Reducing fat in foods strips their nutrition away and leaves us feeling less satisfied when we eat them.
She also works a lot with a book I read a year ago titled The Slow Down Diet: Eating for Pleasure, Energy, and Weight Loss by Marc David and absolutely loved. I only wish they had not used the word "diet" in the title, because it's not a diet book at all (and I have banned "diet" from my vocabulary), but a book about ways of eating with much deeper awareness. We live in a culture that makes billions of dollars from weight loss programs and lowfat foods, yet as a whole we are only gaining more weight and becoming less healthy. In our rush to get things done we have become disconnected from the very substances that sustain and nourish us.
Two other books that I have recently read and have had a profound impact on the way I look at food are: Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon, a couple living in Vancouver, BC who try for one year to eat foods grown and produced within a hundred miles and talk about "traceability" — how far back we can trace the foods we've eaten to their source (for most of us, it stops at the supermarket), and Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck which made me a complete convert to the superior nutritional value of whole raw milk and grass-fed beef. She has compiled a lot of interesting research about eating different kinds of foods, especially from what she calls "traditional" cultures. Interestingly, there are no traditional cultures that are vegan, because she argues, it is not a long-term sustainable way of eating for humans. I highly recommend all three of the books I've mentioned if you want to think more deeply about your food choices.
I also joined Slow Food USA, whose mission is to "catalyze a broad cultural shift away from the destructive effects of an industrial food system and fast life; toward the regenerative cultural, social and economic benefits of a sustainable food system, regional food traditions, the pleasures of the table, and a slower and more harmonious rhythm of life." Definitely a mission I want to support and is woven deeply into my own movement toward a more unhurried life.
The industrialized food system has had disastrous effects on our national health as well as to the environment and the well-being of the animals we regularly eat. For many years now I have made buying organic and free-range foods a priority in my life. But I feel like I am moving even more deeply into an awareness of how our disconnection to food sources (even organic products often travel across country to reach us) and the people who grow and make our food has terrible consequences, as well as the impact of eating foods that have to be transported long distances to reach me. Smith and MacKinnon quote statistics that say an average meal has traveled 1500 miles to get to our plate.
I think I want to read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver and The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan next.
Like many of you, I have struggled with food for many years, confused over the "right" way to eat. When my mother died almost four years ago I comforted myself with food and gained weight I still haven't lost. I am done fighting and struggling. I am making peace with food, peace with my body. Food is sacred, meant to be pleasurable and nourishing, and also shared within a community. All religious traditions have rituals and festivals centered around certain foods.
I have been experiencing a slow transformation–mostly an even deeper commitment to the slow life in general and an understanding of how living more slowly and locally has a positive impact on my own body as well as on my community and the earth. The season of Easter ended on Sunday, but resurrection continues on for those who are paying attention.
More books on food to consider: (from a Christian perspective)
Food for Life: The Spirituality and Ethics of Eating by L. Shannon Jung
Sharing Food: Christian Pratices for Enjoyment also by L. Shannon Jung
Food & Faith: Justice, Joy and Daily Bread by Michael Schut
The Healing Secrets of Food: A Practical Guide for Nourishing Body, Mind, and Soul and Feeding the Body Nourishing the Soul: Essentials of Eating for Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Well-Being by Deborah Kesten
Slow Food: The Case For Taste (Arts and Traditions of the Table) edited by Carlo Petrini
Sacred Food: Cooking for Spiritual Nourishment by Elisabeth Luard
Dear readers, do any of you have some recommendations or other resources? How do you experience your relationship to food?
-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts