Why We Eat What We Eat
It’s time to find another paper plate! You’ll need a pen too.
We’re exploring reasons for eating. In other words, why do you eat what you eat? Do you eat similar things every day? Are there foods you have at the weekend that you don’t have in the week? Why did you eat what you last ate? Same things all year or different? Think about what influences people’s eating in general, beyond your own life too if you like: why does anyone eat what they eat?
Use the plate to write your answers on. This is stage one of the activity.
If you want to open the topic further you can sit with the idea of identity and food choice. If you weren’t able to eat as you wish, would this impact your sense of self in any way? What does it mean to you to eat like you do? Identity can be around anything that’s important to who you are, such as class, gender, faith, heritage, and much more.
We’ll do stage two together in the live session ~ please have your plate with notes handy!
Making Sense of Nutrition and Heart Health
Have you heard the phrase ‘Mediterranean Diet’? It’s often used in connection with heart health. People living across an area of Europe referred to by nutritionists as ‘the Mediterranean’ have relatively low rates of heart disease in the population as compared to people living in other areas of Europe. The difference is attributed to diet.
The ‘Mediterranean’ as the geographical area under study includes countries like Spain and Italy.
The questions that follow are designed to help you spot misleading gaps and assumptions in standard nutrition information.
- Can you guess, or remember, what the conventional explanation is for the benefits of the Mediterranean diet? In other words, what foods are thought to account for the improved heart health? Are there specific nutrients within these foods that can explain their impact? Are there any ‘missing’ foods whose absence also improves heart health?
2. What do you know about attitudes to food in Mediterranean countries? What is valued?
Could this influence wellbeing?
3. Is the cultural approach to meals and eating the same in ‘the Mediterranean’ and the UK, for example? If not, what’s different? Could this be relevant to wellbeing?
4. There’s a high demand for the export of olive oil because of purported benefits for heart health. What are some wider consequences of this?
5. Is there anything else about the land, beliefs, culture, diet of people living in the Mediterranean that could be contributing to enhanced heart health as compared to non-Mediterranean countries?
6. Can ‘the Mediterranean diet’ exist in a meaningful way outside of the Mediterranean?
“Follow the Pleasure”
This needs the reverse side of your paper plateand coloured pens if you have them.
- think of a meal or food that you have really enjoyed
- spend a little while imagining yourself anticipating this, and then imagining yourself eating it
- draw the meal or food in the centre of the plate
- can you name what made it enjoyable? write these words around the circumference
- you may have written down terms that relate to place, occasion and company. Great!
- you may also have written down terms that relate to the actual food. If so, how are you making sense of the actual food? what are these words describing? I’ll give you a clue to the answer I’m thinking of – there’s five key categories.
- what messages have you incorporated around pleasure? do you have feel for how these messages about pleasure influence how you currently connect with the world – and hence food – through your senses?
More on Body Signals and Sensations
The Physiology of Values or “Cosmovisions”
In this activity I talk about cultural values in an over-simplified way. There is a risk of caricature or romanticising when talking about cultural values at the best of times. Please take this into consideration!
Some of the key differences between a traditional Japanese worldview and a normative USA worldview hinge around the responsibility of the individual. In Japanese culture team-work is important. Children are taught omoiyari (to notice and think of others).
In normative USA culture a rugged individualism is valued. This encourages people to do what they have to in order to rise up the ladder of success.
Like I say, over-simplified.
Imagine a group of people who move from Japan to USA.
Within this group, a number of people maintain a traditional Japanese belief system but swap traditional Japanese food for popular USA meals.
A second sub-group of people adopt a USA belief system but retain their taste for Japanese foods.
Individualism and sushi. Team work and burgers. Which group has better heart-health outcomes?
. . .a Japanese belief system has a stronger impact on wellbeing than the Japanese diet . . .
This is an example of where universalism falls down. Instead there is a Japanese way or ordering reality, or cosmovision, and a USA way of ordering reality.
Recap Video and Teach Sheet from Live Session
I briefly covered two activities in the live session and said I’d upload a long powerpoint (written for practitioners) for anyone who missed it. Good news! I found an old short video that covers the activities. Phew.
Here’s the teach-sheet too.
A Repeat Reminder to Go Gently – And a New Timely Message
This short poem by the late Canadian poet Gwendolyn MacEwen is included as an invocation to all that is life affirming in the exploration of appetite. It seemed timely, what with Covid, the US election and Brexit. I hope there’s something you connect with in her words.
Remember, some of these questions might land deeply and feel unsettling. It’s fine to be unsettled – we need this for change to happen. It’s also true that there’s a point at which we can be too unsettled to engage with learning, which clearly isn’t helpful. We need a steady place in ourselves to return to (the body awareness exercises will help with this) as we adjust to new ways of being with food, emotions, knowledge and so on.
The most important thing for the learning and healing that’s happening here is that you explore your feelings and beliefs. This means being able to engage, and this means pacing yourself. Don’t worry about doing everything that’s suggested, amount doesn’t matter. It’s more important that you can be present with whatever you do, even for a short time and even for a tiny amount.
Last question, what are you looking forward to? Have you got any treats planned? If not, now is a great time to put something in your diary!
See you soon ~