By Lana Turnbull
Well-Being readers are probably familiar with this section of the magazine we call “Feeding the Soul” because we wanted to have a place to talk about the aspects of our lives that affect our spiritual side. We have looked at activities such as volunteering and giving back to our communities, we’ve talked about little acts of kindness shown to strangers, and spending quiet time to pray or meditate, we’ve even looked at how exercise can be a way to get in touch with our spiritual selves. We’ve also explored how our interactions with other people enrich our lives in ways that heal our souls. What we didn’t expect to learn was that what we eat and how we eat it might literally feed, not only our bodies, but our souls as well.
Ancient holy men who developed yoga may have been the world’s first nutritionists, because they sought to find a diet that could contribute to the health of body and peace of mind. They came to prescribe a diet comprised primarily of fresh vegetables, whole grains, fruits, beans, nuts and ‘milk from healthy cows.’ This is surprisingly close to today’s call for eating 5 – 10 daily servings of fresh fruits and vegetables a day, sticking to whole-grains, such as whole wheat bread and pasta, oatmeal, and brown rice, lean meats, fish and poultry, low-fat dairy and substituting plant-based proteins for some meat proteins.
According to Norris Chumley, PhD, and author of The Joy of Weight Loss: A Spiritual Guide to Easy Fitness, “Choosing foods that are alive, full of energy and harvested in a peaceful way nurtures our entire being. We feel fully alive, energetic and peaceful from eating in a healthy, conscious way.”
A growing body of research suggests that our attitudes and actions when it comes to mealtime, may be just as important as what and how much is on our plate. It’s called mindful eating, and it is not a diet, but a state of mind, with its roots in Buddhist teachings that aim to help us reconnect with the experience of eating and enjoying our food.
Before food became an industry and families had to grow what they ate, or buy it from local sources, to sit down at a bountiful table and have enough to eat at the end of the day, was a celebration – a blessing. Mindful eating encourages us to base our diet on fresh, natural foods, to reestablish a relationship with our food and celebrate the act of eating and sharing, not just our daily bread, but the whole meal and those with whom we share it. When we do that, we truly are feeding the soul.