Food as Sweet Refuge


Author: Jen Snider

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The surgery was running long. Really long.

Finally a call from the doctor, more complicated than they thoughtit’s going to be okay

It was okay, but it was the beginning of a difficult period of life. A little surgery turned into a big one, a week of recovery turned to months of recovery. Life as we knew it turned upside down.

I remember the late-night hospital cafe I found after making the tough choice to leave my love, just out of anesthesia, at the hospital so I could go care for our young one at home. I remember looking at the brightly lit food with desperate feelings starting to hit. Swirling worry. Suppressed fear welling up in my chest. Deep hunger. I remember wishing the chips and old french fries looked good.

I wanted comfort and relief. Quick.

Your body needs nourishment, friend, came a gentle voice in my head. My own kind voice. I got some wilty spinach, piled on bright orange carrots and a few pieces of hard boiled egg, stuffed it all in a styrofoam box, grabbed a cookie, and headed for home. I ate everything with my hands as I drove in the dark.

Fruit salad and quinoa

Amid the torrent of thoughts flooding to mind as I drove, notice this bite was a thought that occasionally caught my attention. I listened to it, noticed the carrots for a moment, thought of carrots nestled in the ground, tasted their sweetness, found a little comfort. Breathe, friend. And I did, and a little more comfort arrived 

Learn more about mindful eating with The Peaceful Plate Program. Classes starting soon in Carrboro and Chapel Hill.

My inner voice around food hasn’t always been so kind, nor is it always now. For as long as I can remember, my inner guidance around food can be best described in one of two ways. One is an ashamed comfort-seeking voice, often engaged in guilty bargaining or subtle justifications about food. The other is a judgmental voice reminding me incessantly of all the rules of eating I should be following. Eating was seldom peaceful for me until that moment when an eating event went on autopilot and my attention could float to the phone, the computer, the people around me. The judging voice almost always circled around at the end, doling out a new helping of stress, shame and discouragement. If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. I hear versions of this from people all the time. We’re hard on ourselves about food.

A daily practice of mindful eating over the last couple of years has really changed things for me. I felt the sweet effects of this so deeply in our time of difficulty. I’m so glad.

Of course, in the months that followed the surgery I was under much more stress than usual and lost time to do things that typically support me.  I worked and cared for others all the time, and my personal fuel tank was often nearly empty.

Lucky for me, everyone has to eat, including me, so I hitched my personal fuel tank to three amazing resources: mindfulness at mealtime, nourishing food on my plate, and short walks in the garden. Also lucky for me, I was already well acquainted with all of these, which reminds me of the beauty of having foundational healthy living practices as a part of everyday life (truly we never know when these practices are going to save our butts, right?).

Mealtimes became sweet islands of refuge. When I sat down to eat, I let my typical pause lengthen into many minutes of sitting quietly with my breath, releasing strain and worry, and remembering my place in the giant web of life. I practiced opening all of my senses to my food, expressing deep gratitude as often as I could remember, giving myself the kindness of nourishing food and peaceful moments.

It was imperfect practice, as most life practices are. Many times I scarfed my food over the kitchen sink or in the car. But even in these times, my kind voice, well practiced at this point, often naturally aroseMay this food nourish me deeply. This food is the gift of the universe. May I be healthy and whole. Being ashamed or judgmental about food felt nearly irrelevant in such a beautifully real and supportive relationship with eating.

Thanks to my practice in these tough few months, I can now even more easily come home to myself with food, settle in and take care. My mind is often a solid and kind ally with food.

I love it every time I rediscover the refuge that mealtimes can be, and the sweetness of nourishing my body and mind.

And I love working on this vital relationship with others, finding new ways of experiencing eating and living as we make changes that last, changes that matter.

If you’d like to learn more about mindful eating, check out The Peaceful Plate Program or set up a free consultation with Jen for individual or family support.

You might also like our online program, Free Yourself Around Food, or some of our blog articles on mindful eating.

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