As a registered dietitian who moonlights as a writer and podcast host, I constantly come across people’s ideas of what healthy eating is and is not. These “definitions” are usually rigid and don’t leave much room for exploring the complexities of food. Never have pasta. Be a kale-eating machine. Always drink the same amount of water every day (make sure it’s a ton, or else). And so on. Such strict interpretations of healthy eating don’t take into account individual circumstances and preferences. They oversimplify food as something that’s purely nutritional. And they neglect how important pure joy can be when it comes to the way we eat.
Food can be an incredible way to not only create joy, but also cultivate joyful connections with other people. What are some of your greatest memories while enjoying a good meal? Who did you share these moments with? As I’m writing this, I’m thinking about a special meal I had with a close friend a few years back while exploring this tiny cobblestone street in Madrid in the wee hours of the night. We started off with olives and goat cheese, local wine, and then progressed into a truffle cheese ravioli, the best arugula salad (ever), and grilled whole fish. I can still remember our table at the very front of the narrow restaurant, right across from the bar; the dim lights; my friend’s face filled with laughter as we cracked jokes about how incredibly romantic this entire setup was, and how lucky we were to be sharing it with one another. At one point, the chef came out to check on us, and that added another sprinkle of special to the whole night. These are the moments I live for and that bring me the most joy. And although it may seem counterintuitive, these moments are also part of healthy eating. Joy and connection to others are both great for our health
Unfortunately, so many things can sap joy from how we experience food. Through counseling hundreds of people, I’ve seen firsthand the way food-related stress can rob us of the excitement, gratitude, fulfillment, and spirit of curiosity the act of eating can otherwise provide. I’ve worked with families that place an enormous amount of pressure on children during mealtimes in the form of “eat this,” “eat more,” “eat less,” or “eat now,” all of which can create a pattern of disordered eating that can take years to work through. I’ve seen a lot of adults, especially adults with larger bodies or who have recently gained weight, receive constant food policing and questioning from others and often from themselves. These types of dynamics are such a shame because tapping into joy during mealtime can help us feed not just our bodies, but our hearts as well.
You may be thinking, Okay, this sounds good, but what does joyful connection actually look like during mealtimes? Great question.
Head on over to SELF to read the full article! Joyful Connection Is Part of Healthy Eating Too