How’s your relationship with food? I think this topic is an especially important one when we are talking about IBS and the low FODMAP diet. It can be so easy to create unhealthy, overly restrictive food habits when we are desperate to stop our symptoms dead in their tracks. It can seem as if you have to make a choice between a restrictive, regimented diet and being able to carry out your day-to-day activities comfortably. But it doesn’t have to be this way, it doesn’t have to be one or the other.
Today’s guest poster is Maureen Whitehouse. She’s an expert in eco-spiritual nutrition and an award-winning author, and she’s kindly offered to share her unique take on this topic. Can you relate at all to Maureen’s experience? Let us know in the comments, and let’s get a discussion going!
“Great book!” the photographer says as he hands my portfolio back to me. You’d be perfect for this job. I hope we get a chance to work together.” Smiling, I thank him, but think, “How many times have I heard that before?” I head out to the streets of New York City to make my way to my next appointment where I find myself yet again in a typical photographer’s loft that has a job in full swing.
Seated on chairs behind the camera are several ad agency reps and an art director. Two assistants are setting up the lights as the photographer chats with his studio manager. The models, all in various stages of being prepped and readied, are positioned around a full wall-sized mirror, which is surrounded by white-hot light bulbs. A makeup artist applies foundation to the women’s faces, a hairstylist sets curls, a stylist steam-irons a silk dress.
The photographer notices me and makes his way though the ordered confusion to extend a warm smile and his hand for my book. We exchange small talk as he thumbs though it appreciatively. As he closes my portfolio I hear for the fourth time that day, “You’re great. I’d love to work with you.”
I smile, murmur my thanks, and while walking out I find myself tempted to grab a roll as I pass by the lunch spread. But I refrain, knowing next week I could be here again—hopefully getting paid to smile in front of the camera. So, in anticipation of a someday, once again I starve myself.
I lived the life of an international model for over two decades, and if I learned anything from that high-stress and often crazy lifestyle it was that the more I focused on the superficial aspects of myself, the emptier and less happy and healthy I felt.
Nutrition and Wellbeing
When I began modelling in New York City after college I was a vegetarian and well-aware of the benefits of a healthy diet. My imperative to keep in shape guided me towards attaining a virtual Master’s Degree in nutrition and holistic health. I devoured anything written about nutrition and wellness.
Yet, now, instead of having a nutritious meal for the pure enjoyment of it, eating became more of an obsession; an experience that was almost always connected with guilt. I had to keep that perfect figure in order to be marketable, or worth anything in anyone’s eyes. Although eating well was a wonderful focus, my motivation was completely outside of myself.
It wasn’t until years later that I realized I had been feeding my body’s hunger for approval, but not feeding my Soul. I realized that my struggle with food was largely because I was living a surface-level existence and expecting it to feel somehow deeply fulfilling—an irreconcilable difference. Little did I know how vital it would be for me to make this connection.
Fast forward to today. After years of working with people from all walks of life as a spiritual mentor and expert in nutrition, I know that making that connection between fulfillment and spirit back in my modelling days was not only fundamentally important for me, but that it is vitally important for everyone.
How to Develop a Healthy Relationship with Food
Even though I was basically unconscious about the spiritual symbolism behind eating and food back in my modelling days, I was aware of a few things. Like most people, I knew that food—like air and water—was vital to support life and served a primary physiological human need. It wasn’t until later on that I learned the key to mastering an effortless, healthy relationship with food (or anything else for that matter). I saw that the most important connection for us all to make is with the spiritually nutritive quality of life, which is every bit as important as the physiological—if not more so.
It is not only what we eat that’s important, but also how, and with what perspective, we eat it. Ingesting food with this perspective gives the act of eating deeper meaning, which also makes it more satisfying. Eating with such an awareness allows us to realize that although we all have a body, we are not just our bodies. We are so much more.
I discovered that anyone can be at their ideal weight if they realize that what and how we eat is intricately and intimately linked to personal fulfillment in every area of our lives. The truth is, the experience of hunger can exist even when we’re full of food. What we all crave most is a deeper, more fulfilling connection to life.
If we look at our relationship to ourselves, to food, and to our lives in this way, an entirely new world of experience opens up to us, including the way we view diet.
We realize that the ultimate pleasure comes from doing what resonates with our souls, not necessarily doing what we think gratifies our physical bodies. From this perspective, eating well becomes another way for us to nourish our connection with who we really are and demonstrate self-love.
Food Choices for a Healthy Life
How we eat can reveal a lot about how we show up to life. Our food choices expose the areas in our lives where we are – and where we are not – loving to ourselves.
Recognizing this via my own hard won experiences, I now I help people foster what I call a Soul-Full relationship to food via the Soul–Full Eating axiom:
Eat with Love,
What’s Grown with Love,
Prepared with Love
and Served with Love.
How does that look in real life, on our tables, in our refrigerators and on our plates?
First, ask yourself this… What do I love? I mean, really love. At a soul level, you know?
That’s what Soul–Full Eating is about; getting to the core of what we love and then allowing ourselves to experience that every day.
It’s a whole new way of looking at the way we eat and how we view our entire lives. It’s about realizing what feels fulfilling on a Soul–level.
Soul–Full Eating asks us to entertain the idea that we are Souls who have the delightful, blessed experience of wearing a body for a time.
Most approaches to diet and health and wellness only acknowledge the most superficial aspects of us, but we are so much more than that and we genuinely crave to find fulfillment on every level. We crave peace, joy, love, self-esteem, creativity, freedom of self-expression, and to be fully alive!
If we honour and connect to our Soul-Self, we can fulfill all of these deeper yearnings as we take an entirely different approach to diet than is typical—one with no deprivation. We can eat whatever we want that furthers our connection to our Souls. That’s the catch. Which foods actually advance this connection and which do not? The answer is simple. The most nourishing food is that which is consciously grown, lovingly selected and prepared, and mindfully eaten.
This refers to food produced in harmony with the greater environment—the greater Soul found in all of creation. When food is grown in this way, with a deeper connection and reverence for nature, it intrinsically connects us to “the bigger picture.” To me, being conscious means acting in a way that demonstrates that you fully understand all of the consequences of your actions. You are aware that the way you talk, act, think and carry out your daily affairs affects yourself and others. So, when we eat food grown consciously, we more easily perceive ourselves as an intimate part of the circle of life.
These are foods that complement our own unique, individual needs. They are also the foods that we know we will savour, such as those that are fresh and locally grown. Choosing to eat only foods that we truly love and are attracted to with all of our five senses automatically eliminates foods that we tend to eat on the run or just to fill our stomachs. Eating foods we take care to select, that resonate our own unique individual makeup, fosters a greater sense of self-recognition and self-reverence.
These are made in ways that release their vitality. These dishes can be simple or elegant, but they are created and served in a manner that magnifies the food’s nutritional value—in an environment that feels balanced, nurturing and healthful.
This means eating with awareness and gratitude for all the effort and positive energy that has been focused in order to provide the bounty about to be enjoyed. Paying attention to not only what is on our plate—but how it got there and also how we eat it—is a powerful way to practice the art of true presence.
To sum it up, at a Soul level, we all know what is most deeply fulfilling to us and we all deserve to experience that, all day, every day. Here is the question to ask yourself that will always point you in the right direction—inward—to greater fulfillment in your life that allows you to give up your food woes for good.
“What am I hungry for?” Another way of asking that is, “What do I really love?”
When you ask this question, go deep. Then Celebrate the power of love in all it’s forms—from farm to fork—as you…
Eat with Love,
What’s Grown with Love,
Prepared with Love
and Served with Love.
Food for Thought
Spend five minutes meditating on or writing about the following questions.
When you were young, were you given praise for finishing every last bite on your plate?
Were you ever coerced into eating even after you felt full by being told about the starving children in other parts of the world or about how others suffered and sacrificed to provide you with your meal?
If so, then it’s likely that guilt has been colouring your world when it comes to eating—guilt for not eating enough, or guilt for eating too much.
Learn to Love Your Diet, and Your Life
Just for one day, do only what you genuinely love to do. Can you do that? Lucky you, if you don’t have to put a hold on everything and completely rearrange your entire life to do this. That means you are already being true to your Soul! But if you do have to rearrange your time and space in order to allow your authentic-self to emerge, that’s still fine. Why? Because now you can see that you really do deserve to love yourself in the fullest sense of the word. Once you do this just one time, there may be no turning back! Eating what you really don’t love, without love, is just one small symptom of a greater picture of denying your brilliance and self-worth
This article has been adapted from Maureen Whitehouse’s award winning, best-selling book, Soul–Full Eating: A (Delicious!) Path to Higher Consciousness. Go to www.eatwithsoul.com to get your free copy today.