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True Nourishment

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To nourish someone, by definition, is to provide them with the substances necessary for growth, health, and life itself. We often think of nourishment in terms of nutrition, but in reality, true nourishment goes far beyond the food and supplements that we consume.

As Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, explains, our relationships, dreams, hobbies, and many other aspects of our lives also give us those nourishing qualities that are absolutely vital if we are to thrive as humans.

What do you nourish, and what nourishes you? Tune in to this uplifting new video from #IPEtv, and take some time to explore the connections between food, love, and other forms of nourishment in your own life!

YouTube video

Below is a transcript of this week’s video:

Greetings friends, this is Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating.

Today’s topic: True Nourishment

The questions I always return to when addressing any issue with food or nutrition is, What nourishes? What is it that truly feeds us and provides the satisfaction we seek? We believe that good nutrition nourishes us, and it does, yet it is easy to lose sight of all that nourishes and focus on nutrition alone.

The question of what nourishes is often difficult to answer because our dietary notions change constantly. What we thought was good to eat yesterday is not always what we think is good today. Since colonial times people have believed that red meat was the king of foods. It made you strong and healthy and was even better for you than the most commonly consumed and well-loved staple–pork.

Since the late 1960s this trend has completely reversed. Red meat and pork are no longer considered staples, but foods to eat occasionally. In fact, most other foods once considered the center of a healthy diet–whole milk, eggs, butter, cheese, and potatoes–are now under attack in some scientific circles, while foods such as oat bran, which previously fed our farm animals, are now seen as the edibles of choice.

As one senior citizen remarked, “First I learned to eat lots of meat and eggs because they made you healthy, then I learned you shouldn’t eat them because they made you sick, but you should eat fish instead; then I learned you shouldn’t eat fish because of toxic metals in fish, and now I’m told to take a fish liver oil supplement, because it lowers your cholesterol.”

Most nutritional assertions that originate from authoritative sources have a brief shelf life. Our nutritional information is not based on what is ultimately good to eat, but what we believe is good to eat at the time. Within this unstable state of affairs, one thing does remain constant–the connection between our relationship to food and our inner world.

How we eat is a reflection of how we live. Our hurrying through life is reflected in hurrying through meals. Our fear of emotional emptiness is seen in our overeating. Our need for certainty and control is mirrored in strict dietary rules. Our looking for love in all the wrong places is symbolized in our use of food as a substitute for love.

The more we are aware of these connections, the greater the potential for our personal unfolding and inner satisfaction. For in changing the way we eat, we change the way we live. By focusing attention while eating, we learn to focus attention in any situation. By enjoying food, we begin to enjoy nourishment in all its forms. By loosening dietary restrictions, we learn to open up to life. By accepting our body as it is, we learn to love ourselves for who we are. And by eating with dignity, we learn to live with dignity.

Imagine for a moment all the different diets you have ever followed–the foods you ate as a newborn, a small child, a youth, a young adult, and on through the rest of your life. Who were these eaters? Where did they come from? Where did they go? What precipitates the change from one diet to the next? What will you be eating a year from now? Ten years from now?

I recall with a sense of awe my father lying in a hospital bed with tubes entering his nose, his mouth, and the veins in his arms, providing him with his only source of nourishment. Here was a human being, who fifty-eight years earlier had been born in a hospital with a feeding tube running from his mother to his belly, and now he was once more lying helplessly in a hospital.

For all the diets he had ever followed, for all the bottles of vitamins, bagels and cream cheese with butter, and macrobiotic meals he had ever eaten, he was now, in some strange unearthly way, back where he had started. What nourished him in his lifetime?

What foods were good for him? Did he absorb the nutrients he needed? Did he accumulate too many toxins? Would the right diet have saved him? Perhaps he ate too much meat. Too much cholesterol. Too much salt. Not enough calcium. Not enough fiber…

When the body no longer flourishes, a new reality is seen, one that urges us forward into the unknown and backward to look upon what has been, to ask the question that may have passed our lips, What nourishes?

We now understand nourishment is not only nutrition. It is the experience of that nutrition–the heartiness, the sentiments, and the soul intention on which our eating is based. What nourishes is our relationship to food, our participation in the ongoing exploration of eating, the wonder, the joy, the confusion, the change, the uncertainty, the pain, the aliveness, the theories, the disputes, the shopping, the cooking, the sharing, the ripe watermelon, the overcooked spaghetti, the healthy foods, the forbidden sweets, and the knowing that when a meal is finished, we will return for another and another and another.

Whether it is the eternal round of the seasons, the sun, the stars in the night sky, or the hunger in our body, we continually end up where we began, finding ourselves at similar crossroads and often with similar opportunities. At any moment we may begin life anew. Begin your relationship to food now. Rather than wait for a time that may never arrive to embrace all that nourishes, embrace it now.

I hope this was helpful, my friends.

Please email us at info@psychologyofeating.com if you have specific questions and we will be sure to get back to you. In the comments below, please let us know your thoughts. We love hearing from you and we read and respond to every comment!

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