I recently came across this statement on the U.S. Department of Agriculture website: “About 90% of Americans do not get enough dairy.”1 A review of dairy consumption by country shows that the United States ranks 17th in the world with an average intake of 560 pounds per person per year.2 In comparison, the average Japanese person consumes about 158 pounds annually, ranking Japan 109th on this list. Meanwhile, Japan ranks first in the world for life expectancy. The United States is 54th.3 If a country that consumes 28% as much dairy as we do outlives us by an average of eight years, is it accurate to say, “90% of Americans don’t get enough dairy”? Who defines “enough”?
It’s questions like these that inspired me to create a new kind of course in nutrition – one that teaches people how to think critically, listen to their bodies, and develop a healthy relationship with food. In How to Eat, I explain how to achieve your optimal weight without counting calories or eating in a totally unnatural way. I lead students to a way of eating that promotes abundant energy and a clear mind without having to wade through all the contradictory information out there. Through a combination of modern science, psychology, and a strong foundation in traditional Eastern systems of medicine, I’ll teach you that it’s not just what you eat, but how you eat that matters.
For today I want to offer you just one simple piece of nutrition advice: stay conscious while eating.
We all tend to think about things other than the act we’re currently engaged in, and this is an especially bad habit while eating. We daydream, we work, we read, we watch TV, we talk, we drive, we play on our phone. This causes us to miss out on many of the benefits of eating, and it also makes us more likely to eat in ways that aren’t healthy.
There are three good things that happen when we stay conscious (i.e., mindful):
- The eating process tends to work better. We’re relaxed, we consume at a healthier pace, the body assimilates it better, and I believe we probably derive more nutritional value from the food.
- We notice and can respond to the subtle (or not-so-subtle) messages our body is giving us, such as, “I’m not hungry anymore” or “This food is not compatible with me” or “Slow down.” You can learn virtually everything you need to know about how to best feed yourself – both the specific foods and the ideal time and manner to eat them – just by giving all of your attention to the act of eating.
- We have an amazing opportunity. Truly. I believe that most people may never experience just how profound the act of eating is. This profundity is only available when we give it our full attention. Then we start to get an inkling of it . . .
. . . the complexity of colors, textures, flavors, and nutrients in the food
. . . the incredible sophistication and intelligence of the human body; its ability to extract what it needs from the food and turn it into energy, blood, muscle, bone, and the capacity to remain conscious and sharp
. . . the whole ecology we’re part of – the sun and the almost magical ability of plant cells to turn its light into biological energy; the constructive roles of soil and water; the human labor and the care that was taken to cultivate this food; and the lineage of thousands of generations of plants and animals that were intentionally chosen for the purpose of nourishing us.
When we have an experience of just how special this is, eating is no longer just about making the hungry feeling go away or getting a good taste in your mouth. It can be calming and centering. It can be a beautiful spiritual practice. It unites us with our environment.
If you’re ready for a new way of relating to food and how you feed yourself, check out my course, How to Eat. It’s on sale for 60% off right now.