There is no greater food than love. Humans thrive on it. Without a doubt, the heart is front and center in our lives. In fact, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the heart is referred to as the “sovereign,” or the ruler of the body, and is claimed to house the spirit of the person. Some traditions perceive the heart as the center point where body and soul — heaven and Earth — meet.
Our heart is our inner fulcrum, bringing balance to our eating experiences. Without a solid foundation of love and a free, open heart, we are unable to lovingly assimilate any quantity or quality of nutrients we ingest, no matter how pure and adequate they may be for our body.
In many cultures, food is used to express love. Dating couples typically spend their time together eating a meal. Mothers bake for their children. Our love travels not only through the act of sharing food, but through the act of consuming it.
The act of eating and what we eat shows how much we value and love our bodies. Eating behaviors often reveal how connected we are to the greatest form of love — self-compassion. Through loving ourselves, we able to form a healthy relationship with food.
Many people suffer from disordered eating — overeating, starvation, or fixated eating — and have a damaged self-image that doesn’t allow them to love their bodies. Obesity is a global epidemic and anorexia continues to be one of the leading chronic illnesses among adolescents. Is it time to be concentrating an equal amount of attention on the emotional aspects of eating and not just the quality of food itself?
Cultivating compassion is a primary focus in current research on disordered eating. Low self-compassion was the strongest predictor in eating disorder pathology in several recent studies and building self-compassion has been shown as the best means by which to prevent disordered eating.
Feelings of shame, failure, self-disgust, resentment, and contempt are commonly exacerbated in those with eating disorders and in turn food is used as punishment rather than nourishment. This “I’m not good enough” outlook has been mediated with techniques like Compassion-Focused Therapy (CFT) which not only helps to cultivate compassion for self, but for others as well.
Here are three easy ways to cultivate more compassion in your life:
1. Grow food with love and respect.
When food marinades in love, it is saturated with a different resonance, making it taste sweeter and more flavorful. People who buy organically grown food claim it tastes better than conventionally grown food, even when they do not know which one is which. There's certainly an element of "love" that appears to go into organic gardening not found in mass, industrial farming.
When we make the selection for organic food, we are actively tapping into the energetic lineage of love that has grown into the food imparted from the sun, stars, moon, sky, farmer, harvester and grocer.
2. Share meals with others.
Love grows when we share it. The more we share, the more nourishment that is available to all. Invite others over to eat and try new recipes — this is the perfect meal for the heart. Eating in a communal setting is important for us as humans as we are interdependent on each other. Our lives at their essence are truly about giving and receiving love.
When we build walls of isolation or separation around us, we close off the heart. Eating with others blossoms the heart with joy, especially when the meals are prepared and eaten together.
3. Eat plant foods for circulation and expansion.
On a symbolic level, vegetables, especially leafy greens, embody the element of expansion. Furthermore, ancient traditions have connected the color green to a healthy, vibrant heart. On a nutritional level, plant foods are nourishing to the heart because of the phytonutrient complexity they provide. Green foods contain high levels of plant compounds antioxidants like chlorophyll — the “king” of the plant-based antioxidants.
Some green vegetables also contain dietary folates, which help in lowering levels of homocysteine in the blood, an important marker to consider in those with cardiovascular disease risk.
Remember this the next time you take a bite — love energizes every particle that passes through our lips. Truly, the greatest nourishment we could ever take in is that of love.