Blog : 4 Food Freedom Lessons
Updated: Mar 12
By : Elizabeth Ray MS RDN LD
I’m on Day 28 of my Whole30 Quarantined Edition.
This round hasn’t focused on the Whole30 rules, it has been about practicing the Whole30 good mealtime habits. These habits are…
“Eat meals at the table in a relaxed fashion. Do not allow distractions like TV, phone or email while you are eating. Chew slowly and thoroughly, don’t gulp. Take time to enjoy the delicious, healthy food you have prepared.”
I elected to practice the Whole30 good mealtime habits because no matter what food was available day to day during the pandemic, I would be able to feel good about how I was choosing to eat.
In 28 days I have uncovered A LOT about how I eat. Here are the top 4 take-aways…
1 : Eating at the table cues my body it is time to enjoy.
Research shows that our environment cues specific habits automatically. For example, Jeremy Dean author of Making Habits, Breaking Habits asks readers to think about a time the electricity had been out for hours. Even though you knew the power was out, as soon as you walked into the bathroom, you reached to turn on the lights. The environment prompts us to act specifically despite knowing better or having good intentions not to act.
Because of environmental triggers, I found it difficult to eat alone at the table at first.
You see, I grew up eating most meals at the table with my family. This changed when I went to college. I was living alone so I started eating meals on my couch in front of the TV. The TV was substitute for family interaction and the couch was a comfortable reminder of home. The new environment was forming a new mealtime habit, and unfortunately I was completely unaware.
Fast forward to today, I have my own family but most of my meals are still eaten alone while everyone is at work, school or practice of some sort. The environment of eating alone prompts me to plop on the couch, reach for the remote, and eat without much thought.
When I started practicing the Whole30 good mealtime habits of “eat meals at the table in a relaxed fashion. Do not allow distractions like TV, phone or email while you are eating,” I was anything but relaxed. It felt like a fight, or swimming upstream.
Overtime, this practice has gotten easier. I find myself feeling more content with this new found quiet environment and more satisfied at the end of my meal. Also I experience less cravings in between meals and less anxiety throughout the day.
2 : Chewing slowly and thoroughly increases my gratitude.
Research shows that habits happen automatically without much thought and emotional deliberation. Thus returning to my childhood, we would eat meals together but I only stayed long enough at the table to gobble up my meal so to get out the door for play before the sun set.
The mealtime habit of inhaling my food was also reinforced during school lunch. We only had so many minutes of free time, and I didn’t want to spend it chewing. Play time was my prize.
Even though I am not desperate to get playtime these days, I have continued to eat quickly. This habit has gone on without much thought of my appetite before the meal, signals from my gut during the meal, nor how wonderfully content I can feel after eating a healthy meal.
Practicing to“chew slowly and thoroughly, [without] gulp[ing]” seemed to cause anxiety at first. This anxiety was actually fear; the fear of missing out! But as I continued to practice these new good mealtime habits, I realized that I had missed out! I had missed out on the experience of thousands of delightful meals!
In addition, I have found that chewing slowly forces me to pause and embrace gratitude. These moments of gratitude tarry throughout the day and increase my overall happiness. My physically body is also thanking me with less digestive distress and abdominal bloating.
3 : How I eat is just as important as what I eat.
“Let food be thy medicine” first coined by Hippocrates a few thousand years ago is probably the most quoted food virtue in modern day. What food we choose to put in our mouths is vitally important. Our physically bodies are made to depend on the nutrients, not just calories, from this world. What foods we choose can literally bring life and vitality or morbidity and early mortality.
Nonetheless, we learn at a every early age that food is more than just for feeding our physical needs. Food also is intended to nourish our emotional needs. Food was created to literally make us feel good, physically and emotionally.
So why is eating so hard at times? During my Whole30 Quarantined Edition, I uncovered a food truth. What food I eat is important but how I eat it is equally important. How I choose to eat has the power to either bring my body and spirit nourishment, or has the power to break down my body and crush my spirit.
For example, science shows us that when eating under emotionally charged conditions our bodies fail to digest and absorb food properly. Also science reveals that our digestive system is connected to our brain, and despite science knowing how this gut-brain relationship works, this relationship is tightly bound.
Another example that represents the importance of how we choose to eat is : food is an express of our culture as a people and identity for us individually. How we choose to interact with food is a part of our story, and tells the story of who we are and what we value.
How are you choosing to spend time with food?
How did you choose to search for and prepare food?
How do you share food?
How do you choose enjoy food?
The answer to these questions tell a lot about you! Again how you choose to eat is a narrative of you!
Therefore, when we only focus on what we eat, we miss a big part of the picture of who we are and our relationship with food. Choosing to examine my how I interact with food has definitely been an upgrade to my relationship with food and with myself.
4 : How I eat is just as important as what I eat, and needs to be practiced.
Research shows it takes more than 21 days to establish a new habit, so I’m committing to another 30 days of practicing these new meal time habits. Research also indicates the longer the habit has had its run the more difficult it can be to break. Since most of my old mealtime habits were rooted decades ago, I need the continued practice. I want this Food Freedom upgrade to stick!
So here’s to another 30 days of practice, and maybe more! Working towards these new mealtime habits are worth the trouble and time, because I’m worth it!
Elizabeth Ray, MS RDN LD works as a registered dietitian nutritionist helping people improve their relationship with food and with themselves. Her Instagram handle is @wholefoodbeliever, and she can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/e3trition. Elizabeth has also has a blog at https://www.wholefoodbeliever.net.
For your information only. The statements on this website and/or in this article are opinions. Wholefoodbeliever does not provided medical or nutritional advise, treatment, or diagnosis.