I can’t remember a single meal eaten with my grandmother that wasn’t preceded by her saying grace. It was a simple sentence spoken quietly by this tiny dynamo of a woman: Thank you, God, for these gifts which we are about to receive.
As a child, this giving thanks often seemed unnecessary (and a fairly torturous delay to the meal). Now, many years later, I understand the health benefits of this important ritual. Here are there reasons why it's great to pause, take a breath, and say grace:
1. Saying grace causes us to pause before we dig into our food.
When we rush through a meal, we’re more likely to overeat, as it takes the body approximately 20 minutes to register a feeling of fullness. Saying grace helps us to slow down and relax throughout the meal.
2. When we begin our meal by giving thanks, it brings mindfulness to the meal.
We can more fully appreciate the colors, flavors, and textures of our food. More pleasure leads to a greater sense of satisfaction, helping to prevent overeating.
3. Saying grace reminds us that food is a gift.
When we think of food as a gift and a kindness we do for ourselves, our food choices become much more conscious, more deliberate and more loving. Food assumes the role that it’s meant to have: food is sustenance. It’s meant to support us, nourish us, give us life and strength. It is NOT meant to “numb us,” punish us, deprive us of pleasure, or cause shame and guilt. This simple change in perception makes mealtime a more positive and less stressful experience.
4. The ritual encourages us to consider food (and the act of eating it) as a physical, emotional and spiritual experience.
It reflects a deep reverence and appreciation for food. It reinforces the idea that food nourishes us, not only physically, but on an emotional and spiritual level, as well. When we acknowledge this fact, we come to understand that what we put into our bodies is supremely important; in fact, it’s the foundation upon which everything else is built. If we want to live a rich, full, passionate life and experience true health and wellness, food is the place to start.
Here’s a simple, non-denominational ritual that you can use before eating your next meal:
Sit down at the table, pause before eating and inhale deeply (you may close your eyes, if you wish).
Notice the smell of your food. Then, take a moment to observe the colors of the foods on your plate. Say silently or aloud, “I’m so appreciative for the pleasure of this meal. I know that it feeds my body and my soul and I’m deeply grateful for it.”
This simple ritual of saying grace reminds us that treating ourselves kindly and feeding ourselves well is an act of self-love. With every meal comes the opportunity to give ourselves a wonderful gift, to take pleasure in that gift, and to be grateful for it.