Think for a moment of a food from your past, one that makes you feel great after you eat it for no specific reason. Maybe it is macaroni and cheese, slow-simmered tomato sauce, ice cream cones or potato pancakes. Eating comfort foods (every now and then) can be incredibly healing, even though your rational brain might not consider it highly nutritious. While I do not advocate eating processed/junk food for comfort I do think it is important to treat ourselves to foods that bring us joy and the more we can get that from whole, plant based foods the better.
Food has the power to impact us on a level deeper than just our physical well-being. What we eat can reconnect us to precious memories, like childhood playtimes, first dates, holidays, our grandmother’s cooking or our country of ancestry. Our bodies remember foods from the past on an emotional and cellular level. Eating this food connects us to our roots and has nurturing effects that go far beyond the food’s biochemical make-up.
While I was in culinary school I had the opportunity to make raw, vegan versions of a few comfort-type foods and it was such an incredible experience. Developing these new recipes really opened my eyes and heart to the emotional connection I have to certain foods. I grew up eating quite a bit of creamed corn and it always made me feel warm and happy. This probably had to do with the texture and sugar, regardless, I received great pleasure from eating it. I made a raw creamed corn soup while in school that was to my surprise even better than I remembered the canned creamed corn from all those years ago. I write this to encourage you to think outside the box and not get depressed because certain foods you like to eat are “bad”. Get creative and make a healthier version of a food that you enjoyed during your childhood.
Acknowledging what different foods mean to us is an important part of cultivating a good relationship with food. This month when we celebrate lovers and relationships, it’s important to notice that we each have a relationship with food—and that this relationship is often far from loving. Many of us restrict food, attempting to control our weight. We often abuse food, substituting it for emotional well-being. Others ignore food, swallowing it whole before we’ve even tasted it.
What would your life be like if you treated food and your body as you would treat your beloved – with gentleness, playfulness, communication, honesty, respect and love? The next time you eat your comfort food, do so with awareness and without guilt, and enjoy all the healing and nourishment it brings you.