This is the introduction to a five part series on the process and benefits of conscious eating. If you want to receive the additional articles in this series free by email as they’re released, click here.
Eating is something we do multiples times per day, every day, without fail. There’s no formal instruction for eating. It’s assumed — at least in my culture — that if you can manage to get the food in your mouth and down the hatch, you’re winning.
When it comes to nutrition, fitness, and health, programs and coaches place all the focus on how much you’re eating. Calories, portion sizes, and fat-phobia. It’s all quantity-focused.
Myself and others have proven the uselessness of that strategy. What matters is what you’re eating. When you dial in the what, the how much takes care of itself. You’re home free.
What you’re eating is important, but there’s a missing link that you must master to have a healthy relationship with food. Unfortunately, it’s a component few people are talking about or paying attention to.
Eating has changed.
You’re wading through a batch of tall grass on an 85 degree Spring day. You can feel the cool soil massaging your feet, your weight sinking as you crouch to stay low. The spear in your right hand is ready for launch at a moment’s notice.
For 6 full hours you’ve been tracking a massive moose. Sweat is pouring out of your scalp, burning your eyes. You press on, having found fresh tracks just seconds ago. You remind yourself, this kill could solve the whole tribe’s hunger problems.
Suddenly, your hunting partner signals to you to stop. You go prone, scanning the wild land ahead of you. The moose is standing firm between two trees, now trapped between you and two others from your tribe who flanked him. As they move in from the north, they alert and startle him.
He takes off, dashing away from the threat of your fellow hunters. Your prey is in a full out sprint right toward you — it’s your lucky day.
Your eyes narrow and your fist clenches the wooden spear. You bound to your feet like a surfer hitting the board on the crest of a wave and and hurl the spear at your prey. Time slows. Your brain studies the spear as it pierces through the air. The wait isn’t long, you watch as the sharpened tip drives straight into your intended target.
Back in the day, eating was a process. You were deeply connected to food through the activities of hunting and gathering it. You were in tune with it, present, aware, and focused. The hunt or gather, the cooking process, and the eating process all engaged your five senses.
Stress on a day to day basis was low and well mediated. The thrill of the hunt created a physical, mental, and emotional release. Even if you missed a kill, having something to eat any given day was reason enough to relax and feel overwhelming gratitude.
There was nothing else looming over you. No work deadlines, no soccer practice to get your kids to, and no rush hour traffic to sit in. All stress was acute and limited by today’s standards.
On top of being free from the kind of stress that eats at you, you were much more physically active. Survival depended on it. You walked many miles per day, lifted heavy things, climbed, jumped, crawled, and sprinted.
As you’ll discover, stress plays a huge role in the success or failure of healthy eating. Primal activity is as effective as prozac in stabilizing mental health and has a huge positive impact on physical stress.
What this boils down to is that our ancestors were deeply connected to food and were physically and mentally primed for conscious eating. Finding food, cooking food, and eating that food was a cherished process. Chronic stress was low and there were few distractions. Contrast that with our current lifestyle and it’s easy to see how much eating has changed.
Out of touch.
Our modern society is completely backwards from the process we evolved with. Today, we have nothing to do with the hunting process, aside from a small percentage of people who still hunt. More comical, the gathering process is limited to hopping in a 4Runner and wandering the grocery aisles. Hardly a chore.
There’s no chance of going hungry anymore either. Instead, our problem is having too much and wasting the extra.
What about stress? You’d think having our sustenance problems solved would allow us to relax even more. Nope. Our stress is through the roof and is mostly chronic in nature. It seems like all we do is worry and keep busy.
What about our connection to food during cooking and mealtime? There are countless distractions during both. You can’t just cook, you have to vacuum and toss in a load of laundry at the same time. Or, you’re not even at or near your home and don’t take part in the preparation at all.
When we’re eating, our senses aren’t fully engaged in the meal. Rarely do we cherish the food, choosing instead of scarf it down in race-like fashion. We hardly pay attention, usually because our favorite show is on television. If it’s not that screen, you’re struggling to keep up with your Facebook status updates on the screen in your pocket.
Also warped is our relationship with food. It used to be one of the best things that happened to us. Now, it’s the enemy. Calories were something you wanted en masse to fuel tomorrow’s hunt or to help keep you warm tonight. Today, we’re trying to alert everyone in bold letters how much energy a food contains so we don’t accidentally eat too much. Food is now seen as the thing that hurts you and that causes the vast majority of your problems.
Let’s put it this way, it’s been a long time since you’ve thought about food as nourishment and love and felt genuine gratitude for it. It’s been a long time since you allied yourself with it. It’s been a long time since you worked with your body instead of against it. And it’s been along time since you’ve been in control.
I’m sure you’ve caught on to that missing piece I was talking about earlier. Yes, what you’re eating is important, but equally important is how you’re eating and what your relationship with food looks like. And in today’s disordered food culture, add to that why you’re eating.
The solution to all this is conscious eating. In the articles that follow, I’m going to show you what conscious eating looks like and exactly how it will change your life. Stay tuned.
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Kevin Geary is the founder of RebootedBody.com and a respected expert on cravings, eating psychology, and long-term habit change. He’s helped tens of thousands of men and women in over 35 countries around the world through his online academy and now offers all of his signature programs through a “pay what you want” model.