Ladies and gents, hold the phone: I admit to you here, today… That I am among the ranks of Americans who keep an eye on their calories. Without looking, I can tell you that the average Muhlenberg banana is 115 calories, and the Smuckers peanut butter packets by Chef’s Table are 120; A half-cup of Salad Bar carrots is 40 calories while an Udi’s Double Chocolate muffin is 280. And I log what I eat pretty regimentally in an app on my phone.
If you’re not familiar with these “fitness” apps – based on your numeric data, you’re given a personalized plan for how many calories you should be eating each day.
If you go above this calorie “allowance,” the screen turns red. Red means bad. Or an X appears next to the day. X’s are bad. It sounds silly, but we’ve become very easily conditioned to view taking a bite of food as a negative action. Especially in this day and age when we’re surrounded by these apps, magazines, youtube breaks and well-intentioned relatives who are trying to help us eat less.
You might start viewing food as this evil animate temptress who’s playing us with her wiles. I guarantee you’ve heard your friend curse, “those darn Easter chocolates,” or, “that mac ’n cheese was askin’ for it!” (You know; That mac ’n cheese that says “serves 4” but really serves as a delectable appetizer for one.)
It’s incredibly easy to get out of touch with why food is around in the first place – to allow us to live.
We literally have food (and water, and a little sunlight…) to thank for being able to get up in the morning. Food is what lets you jog over to hug your family at the airport. Food is what lets you sit down with a book and learn stuff about the world. And, food is the excuse you used to go on that amazing first date. We have a lot to thank food for, and it’s just a shame that our manners have morphed into self- and food-deprication.
How can we get food back on our good side? I think it starts with getting back on food’s good side. Author Shauna Niequist suggests one thing which I’ve been trying to adopt as personal practice: We should stop and savor our food. A Chipotle bowl isn’t just something to be dominated (or be dominated by); It’s something to be appreciated.
So now, I dare you to try it out. The next time you sit down to a meal (and the sit-down is key…), give yourself permission to enjoy it. Enjoy its color, its texture, its flavor, its uniqueness. And it doesn’t just stop with food. These are the building blocks to nourishing any of your relationships. No puns, or buns, intended.