I always pay attention to how food affects my mood and body. As a part of my nutritional awareness, I focus on how I feel after eating certain foods. I learned a long time ago that food is not just about nutrition. It is also about emotions.
We all need to indulge occasionally; that is precisely what I did last Saturday.
On this particular Saturday, I planned a trip to Ikea. There are three things I like about Ikea: couple watching, Swedish meatballs and the fact they have liquorice, including my favourites: Schoolkrijt (Crayons) – it’s a Dutch thing.
The story behind the food.
There is a story behind Ikea. I lived in the UK for ten years, many of those with my partner then. And I remember many, many happy trips to Ikea, where every trip would end with a visit to the Ikea restaurant for Swedish meatballs. In other words, I associate Swedish meatballs with good memories; It makes me feel good. It is also a habit to have meatballs at Ikea. An association that has become ingrained in my brain: Ikea = meatballs.
I had made my plan: Arrive at Ikea, get some “Crayons”, eat them all while I shop, and finish off with Swedish Meatballs and chips. When I arrived at Ikea, I was very disappointed that they didn’t have “Crayons.” However, they did have my other favourite: Bassett’s wine gums. I decided to indulge, and “since I was picking up one bad thing, I might as well have more”,….and I did. –“But only for the taste”, even though I knew very well what they would taste like and that I probably wasn’t going to enjoy them.
During my shopping trip, I was continuously stuffing myself and enjoying what I was eating while also in a hurry to finish my bag of candy. Not only do I lose all self-restraint when I eat licorice, but I eat fast. Once it’s gone, it’s gone; that is my attitude. As a child, licorice was my comfort food. I would buy licorice and smuggle it up to my room, where I was often studying/ hiding from stress and tension.
Back to Ikea….
I finished my shopping trip and my bag of candy. It would have been around 200 grams which is a lot of sugar. After my shopping trip, as promised, I went to the restaurant and stuffed my face with meatballs and chips. I was acutely aware that I wasn’t enjoying it. Who wants to sit in an Ikea restaurant, alone, surrounded by all these happy families and couples? I ate fast, and I went home. I felt bloated and sick.
The day went past. When my evening plans were cancelled, I decided to go and see a movie. On the way out of the cinema, I couldn’t resist getting a “tiny scoop” of buttons and chocolate-covered raisins at the local convenience store. They tasted disgusting. I was reminded of how far I had come with my food habits. I threw them out.
My body was loaded with sugar, and I started to feel down. It was sadness. A combination of letting myself down, feeling slightly sick from all the crap (sugar) I had eaten that day and a feeling of loneliness and isolation. And then it struck me: I know this feeling.
The power of Nutritional Awareness
Nevertheless, the sadness made me feel good. I understood this feeling; I was comfortable inside it. And at that moment, I realised that it was the food that brought me to that point. I thought, “Wow, this is nutritional awareness. This is what food can do to people”.
Now consider this for a moment: How is food causing you to feel in a certain way? Can you relate the food you crave to a specific “happy moment” in life that you are trying to hold on to? What foods do you use to numb the pain of past (or present) experiences? How do you feel after indulging in foods you know are not good for you?
There are no right or wrong, good or bad answers to the above questions. Enjoy good food. But you can use nutritional awareness to be a driving force for change allowing you to become the person you are meant to be. Denying yourself awareness is denying yourself nutrition for the soul.
Off course, if you have now gained the awareness that you are unaware, you have just treated your soul with some excellent healing nourishment.