The Art of Blessing Your Food: How to Become Best Friends With Your Food
Have you ever shown up at one of the study rooms halfway into the semester and instantly gagged at the putrefying smell of an assortment of indescribable decaying nutriments in the trash ? Do you feel like you’re stepping into International Food Fair every time you walk into a 12:15 class ? Have you ever run at full speed throughout the school while eating a snack bar because you were late to a class that was located at the very edge of the known universe ? They are symptomatic of an increasingly common phenomenon in our society: eating alone.
Solo eating has become so pervasive that it is not seen as odd anymore, for one simple reason: we’re too busy. Between jam-packed course schedules, a ton of homework, midterms, commuting, clubs, social plans with friends and applying to university, there are millions of things constantly competing for our attention. But us students, being smart (read: having no other choice), have developed an arsenal of innovative solutions to avoid falling prey to total starvation:
1. Eating breakfast or lunch while listening to the professor lecture
2. Eating snacks while walking to class
3. Eating whatever-the-hell-it-is while working on laptops or doing homework in study areas
4. Eating during a club meeting, which creates awkward situations that require alternating between cafeteria poutine forkfuls and playing chess/painting/answering questions/speaking/dancing/singing/playing video games/napping/writing/snorkelling/jumping from a helicopter with a parachute/swimming/saving the world/pressing buttons/acting/laughing/doing math/growing plants/figure skating/bungee jumping/writing speeches for the Prime Minister/accepting a Nobel Prize/rule the world/resuscitate the dead/building apps/rewriting History/performing Wicca rituals on the ghost of Beethoven/starting a tech company/designing T-shirts with memes against rival schools (my sincere apologies to anyone who felt excluded from this list)
Eating lunch slowly with friends on the picnic benches outside long enough so that we can tan under the sunny days of our beloved weather and laugh at silly pranks? Ain’t nobody got time for that !
Unsurprisingly, this is bad for us. According to one study, eating alone is detrimental to your health because it leads to poorer food choices. Eating with other people - or God forbid, cooking and sharing a meal with other people - helps with eating habits regulation. Everything from the timing of your meals to the kind of food you ingest is under better control when you’re eating with other people, because you have to rely on their input and their schedules. However, if you are like most of us here and don’t have time to cook from scratch and/or to devote a non-negotiable chunk of your day to social eating, you grab the easiest half-decent thing you can possibly find and gobble it up while multi-tasking on something else (homework, your phone, your laptop, a textbook, a class, etc.). Nutrition is nowadays reduced to the simplistic food in, energy out equation. No wonder we have such a complicated relationship with food.
Obviously, the food industry is cluing in on this trend: grocery stores are lined with on-the-go practical lunch-box friendly packets and microwavable “food” that is ready in two minutes. Ads for pre-made salads emphasize the portability and healthiness of their advertised meal. Why stop at one thing when you can have both ? they say. You can be productive AND healthy, they say (read: you can have an insane schedule AND not get fat).
The results of this we-want-to-do-and-get-everything lifestyle coupled with a food’s-function-is-to-keep-us-full-and-fulfilled mentality are dire. Window food shopping (a version of window shopping that involves buying every shred of food that comes within our line of sight and getting ourselves into debt), unwitting starvation while waiting for the bus, inability to fully focus in class, inability to distinguish between “real” and “imaginary” hunger, moral dilemmas about “to cook or not to cook” when hungry…for some people, it may even morph into eating disorders. As all this incessant talk about HOW GODDAMN COMPLICATED FOOD IS we have when we are walking to econ class can testify, this is a serious problem that affects us daily. Our relationship with food is now not merely destroyed by unrealistic body images from the media and attacked by an overabundance of nutritional choices (“FAT FREE BACON ! GLUTEN FREE BREAD ! FOOD FREE FOOD !”): it is facing a full-on assault by our busy lives. We see food as an easy-to-get commodity that keeps us alive and sane in a world that places millions of other demands upon us. All of this has to change if we want a better relationship with our food, and, who knows, become happier in the process. Let’s restore our bond with nutrition.
How, you may ask ? Bless your food. This has nothing to do with religious affiliations or sacred rituals. On the contrary, it is deceptively simple and can be done by anyone, anywhere. Silently tell your food that you are happy that it provides you with nourishment and that you are thankful for its presence there in front of you (Even if it is poutine or junk food. Remember, the point here is not to judge what you’re eating, which leads to even more problems. Just focus on having a better relationship with your food.). Then, eat it carefully without rushing it. When you’re chewing, think of all the people who worked hard to make this food present in front of you now: the farmers who sowed faraway lands, the food factory workers who spent hours transforming agricultural produce, the delivery trucks drivers who traveled across the continent, the hardworking cafeteria ladies and gentlemen. Be grateful for their efforts. Be grateful to your food. Do this for every piece of food you will ever eat. It doesn’t matter whether you’re alone or with other people, whether you’re doing something else or just eating, whether it’s morning or night: just do it. Yes, this may sound corny and stupid, but it works like magic because it forces you to actively restore a healthy uncomplicated bond with your food. After a short while, I promise you will notice a nice change. Your impulsive food buying will decrease, you will make healthier choices that benefit your body, you will eat on a more regular schedule and you will be less stressed. Your wallet will be happier, you will look better and you will also feel better.
Because, while we may chaff at the ease with which we get our nourishment, the majority of other people in the world aren’t so lucky. To them, food is not a simple commodity; it is an unequivocally good thing in life to be enjoyed. They may be poorer than us and have worse living conditions, but unlike us, they are best friends with the little food they do have.
Let’s all start becoming friends with our mountain of food, too.