Healthy Eating: The difference between eating and having a meal

It’s a cliché that ‘our body’s a temple’ but really, it’s true. What goes into our bodies has a direct impact on our physical and mental health. Despite this, the strange thing is that most people tend to pay more care into what fuel they put in their cars or how they furnish their house than into what goes into their mouths every day of their lives.

You see there’s ‘eating’ and then there’s ‘having a meal’. The ‘eaters’ are people who eat merely to get rid of hunger. Their philosophy (even subconsciously) is that eating is like breathing, we need food to survive, so they shove whatever they can into their mouths three times a day to maintain life. This works in the short term, but long-term this sort of careless eating will no longer sustain life, instead, it can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and many other ailments that are likely to cut your life short.

Then there’s those who appreciate food. I’m talking about people who don’t just eat to rid hunger but eat for the experience. To fulfil a desire. These people love a good meal of fresh produce, a blend of flavours and a wonderful wine to complement it. This is where eating becomes part of our culture and becomes a time to get together and appreciate food as a family. Some cultures are better-known for their love of food than others… The Italian’s for example, eat several courses in one meal and the wine flows endlessly… bliss!

However, appreciation and desire for food don’t necessarily mean that we’re eating healthily. In fact, desire can go too far where we crave chocolate and ice-cream and we binge eat to try and satisfy our desire… So, how do we define a balance? How do we get to a point where we consciously reflect what we put in our bodies?

I think mindfulness is an interesting concept. Yes, there is such a thing as ‘mindful eating’. All this means is that you take the time to really be in the present moment while you’re eating and reflect on how the food you’re eating got to be on your plate. The rain that nourished the seeds, the soil that nurtured the vegetables, the fire that cooked the fish etc. By making ourselves consciously aware of our food, we force ourselves to make better choices on what we choose to eat. For example, it’s much easier to be mindful and appreciative of how a fresh seafood salad had got to your plate rather than frozen, processed chicken nuggets… I don’t even want to think how the processed chicken ‘meat’ was produced!

The problem is, in Western Culture at least, we never reflect on where our food came from and don’t often think about its nutritional contents. We’ve gone from being hunter-gatherers of catching our cooking our own fresh food where we know exactly where it’s come from, to buying something processed from the supermarket shelf and nuking it in the microwave. This is why we see obesity on the rise and diet related illnesses sky rocketing, particularly in western cultures such as the United States.

What goes into our bodies, radically impacts how we feel and how we get through the day. The difference between fast food and a good meal is you’re either prioritising getting rid of hunger, or instead focusing on how what you’re eating will help you achieve your goals for the day, week, month, or even years to come. Good healthy eating is as much about reflecting and planning than it is about actually cooking and eating.

So, next time you’re choosing what to eat, try mindfulness to reflect on the journey your food has been on to get to your plate. If you do, you may just hesitate and decide not to bite into that Big Mac of processed meat, sugar filled bread and fatty mayonnaise. Your body is a temple, so worship it as such and live healthily.