Food that’s pleasing to the eye is pleasing to the soul. Instead of focusing on diet fads, turn your attention to making eating an enjoyable, stress-free part of your life. Intuitive eating and a healthy relationship with food both play a role in making mealtime delightful. A first step to being happy with the food you eat is to make it beautiful. So, add an edible flower and some bright colors to your next bowl.
Food has become a taboo subject to some. With fad diets like the South Beach Diet and the Macrobiotic diet, it’s very likely that you or someone you know diets to look a certain way or reach a particular goal. As the diet industry continues to boom, it can become difficult to figure out how to nourish both your body and mind. Turns out, the secret lies not in what you eat, but how you feel about what you eat.
Food plays a significant role in our lives. According to the American Time Use Survey done by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average citizen spends 1.14 hours eating each weekday and 1.30 hours eating each weekend.
While food is used as fuel in our day-today lives, the act of sitting around a table with those we love while digging into a beautiful meal nourishes more than just our physical bodies. But diet culture has warped the way we perceive food and, for many, food has become tangled in a complex web of labels and rules.
“When people are pursuing health and ‘clean eating,’ they are developing a lot of disordered behaviors,” said Samantha Gollup, an anti-diet nutritional therapist. “People become obsessed; they start to miss out on social engagements because of their restriction.” In a society obsessed with aesthetics, it can often feel like there is an intense pressure to sacrifice things we enjoy for the sake of “looking good.” Lauren Dorman, a registered dietician and certified diabetes educator for nearly 20 years, believes that the combination of diet and wellness culture has created an environment where unhealthy and restrictive eating behaviors are normalized. Rather than deriving pleasure from the foods we eat, people have developed increased feelings of stress, guilt and shame around certain foods because they don’t fit within their diet.
“The diet industry is very good at convincing us that something is wrong with our bodies, targeting our insecurities so we will buy products,” said Dorman. With the boom of social media and influencer culture, there is always a new diet or beauty standard to be followed. It has the ability to push forward diet culture, and that can cause people to eat fewer calories than the body requires for activity. This can result in negative consequences for the body.
A pamphlet created by the National Eating Disorders Association in 2005 states that people who diet often experience negative side effects such as “loss of muscular strength and endurance,” “dehydration and electrolyte imbalances,” and “fainting, weakness and slowed heart rates.”
So how do we break the cycle? Is there a way to look and feel our best without engaging in diet culture? The answer can be found when you start eating for pleasure.
Eating for pleasure doesn’t mean a jar of Nutella for breakfast washed down with Coke. Instead, it means honoring your body’s needs and forming a healthy relationship with food. This practice goes by the name of “Intuitive Eating.”
According intuativeeating.org, “Intuitive Eating is a self-care eating framework, which integrates instinct, emotion and rational thought.” It was created in 1995 by dieticians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch and relies on 10 key principles to help people make decisions to keep their bodies healthy while making them happy.
“The stress and pressure of planning out what I eat or following something exactly would make me lose my appetite; I never felt fulfilled when I was trying to follow a meal plan,” said Freshman Sidney Cocimano. “When I just listen to myself, it erases some guilt I used to have when I was eating. I’m listening to my body — it’s a happy medium and I feel more fulfilled.”
Intuitive eating opens the door for us to eat what we love in the way that makes us feel best. For many, food is rooted deeply in culture, celebrations and history, and consuming good-looking and good-tasting foods quite literally makes us happy.
The good news is that it’s possible to escape the bubble of diet culture and have a healthy relationship with food. Cooking meals that have lots of color, a variety of spices and a beautiful presentation can make a huge difference in our eating experience. Food served in an intentional manner with care and preparation can make it easier to eat mindfully and make cooking less stressful.
While there is no nutritional benefit from the beauty of a dish, there is a psychological one. When trying to heal your relationship with food you want to feel good about what you are putting in your body. A little garnish on your salmon or a lemon wedge on the glass of your water can make any meal feel like its fit for royalty.
Breaking free from diet culture and the food rules that come with it can help people begin to live their lives again. A simple change in habit can make all the difference, and listening to your body, practicing balance in eating and exercising for fun instead of figure will help heal your body and your relationship with food.
TIPS AND TRICKS TO MAKE YOUR FOOD MORE BEAUTIFUL
1 EAT THE FOODS YOU ENJOY – No food should be seen as off-limits or bad – Instead, choose foods that taste good to you and make you feel your best – See each meal as an opportunity to nourish your body and soul
2 PRACTICE EATING MINDFULLY – Take your time eating to savor each bite and notice the foods taste, textures and aromas – Pay attention to how the food you’re consuming makes you feel – Limit distractions while you eat so that you can be more in tune with your body during mealtimes
3 ADD COLOR TO YOUR PLATE – This makes a beautiful dish and adds a boost of nutrients – Add citrus slices to salads – Cook purple cauliflower for a nutritious and beautiful dose of fiber, antioxidants and protection against disease
4 GARNISH WITH PURPOSE – Try adding some edible flowers to your dishes such as roses, marigolds, daylilies, lavender or sweet violets – Use fresh plants, herbs and spices for a richer flavor (mint, rosemary, basil and ginger).
words & photo_nina d’agostini. design_drew morris.
This article was published in Distraction’s Fall 2022 print issue.