Happy Meals

There are certain ways to eat for happiness. I know that sounds simple. Everyone knows how to eat. After all, mom fed us Gerber Baby Food at around four months old. Eating is natural. But, hear me out. 

There are certain ways to eat for happiness that we need to know. Ignorance of how to eat isn’t bliss. 

First , eat s l o w l y. Most Americans devour food at a gobble-it-down pace. Maybe it’s because when we were kids, we had to eat breakfast fast or we’d miss the bus. At school, lunch had to be eaten at a rush since only thirty minutes was allowed for it. Supper might have been eaten slower, but how many after supper activities were there to make for a hurry-up supper. Or, a tired working mom would just say, “Lets go grab something to eat. I don’t feel like cooking for everyone tonight. She’d stop at a fast food window, order a burger and fries, and eat on the run to get her child to the evening activity on time. And, bring a sack home for dad. 

We’ve learned to gulp our food down quickly. That kind of eating is trouble for those who want to lose weight. It’s not happy, relaxed eating. 

One of the simple ways to eat happily and also lose weight is to eat leisurely. I’ve found that just putting my fork down between bites instead of shoveling it in makes for a leisurely meal. Now, I know in our fast-paced society that eating leisurely may be next to impossible. However, it’s important to eat casually and purposefully. Time must somehow be found to eat deliberately if at all possible. 

Since I have started learning about weight loss and the relationship of food and happiness, I take notice when I am at a restaurant about how fast patrons eat. Next time you go out, look around and observe the fast eaters. It’s quite entertaining and educational. 

One of the main reasons that cramming our food down is unpleasant is because fast-eating does not give the stomach time to tell our brain that’s it full – that its had enough. It takes 21 minutes for our stomach to tell our brain that it’s had enough. Our stomach is only about the size of our fist. It doesn’t take much to fill it up, but it takes a while for us to know it’s had plenty. 

Another problem with eating fast is that food-gulpers tend to overeat. And where does that excess food go? It turns into fat. And fat makes us, well, fat and dissatisfied with our body. 

On the other hand, eating slowly and enjoyably aids proper digestion. Chewing food thoroughly breaks it down in our mouth instead of in our intestines. Hormones in the mouth release saliva, an important component of proper digestion. 

Saliva functions as a lubricant to so food easily passes from the mouth into the esophagus. It contains enzymes capable of breaking down starch into simpler sugars and begin fat digestion.  

Another reason to eat slowly is that food is always associated with pleasure. Taste is one of our five senses. We take pleasure in eating. We invite friends and family over to eat dinner with us. We meet friends at a restaurant to dine together. Food is associated with happiness and comfort even when you eat alone. 

Lysa Terkeurst writes, “God gave me taste buds which leads me to believe I am supposed to enjoy eating. It’s not just a function of sustaining life. Eating is to be enjoyed. But, eating was. Ever supposed to sabotage my life either. Deep fried, smothered and covered, drizzled and drenched, salted and seasoned beyond reason are all words that speak to the sabotage to which I’m referring. 

“Fresh, whole, organic, raw, and natural are all words that speak of the life sustenance we can learn to enjoy. Some of my favorite new healthy options are raw veggies dipped in hummus, strawberries and other fresh-cut fruits sprinkles with Stevia, and oatmeal mixed with berries and nuts” (Made to Ceave Devotional

But, the delight turns into a downer when we become satiated. The best, pleasurable taste in food is in the first few bites. That’s what makes food enjoyable. After that, it’s like loading dishes in the dishwasher. Boring! That’s what happens to our taste when we eat fast and consume too much. Food becomes boring. The enjoyment is gone. From then on, it’s just eating out of habit and a bad habit at that. 

Another tip for happy eating is to eat mindfully. This means don’t multi-task while eating. Don’t sit in front of the TV while eating. Eat at the table sitting down. Enjoy the meal. Savor and enjoy each bite. Let the flavor explode over your tastebuds. It’s satisfying that way. Food is meant to be enjoyed like that of a beautiful sunset or the budding flowers in spring. 

We are not merely gas tanks waiting to be filled. We are vibrant, passionate, pleasure-seeking people, and there’s nothing wrong with that if we take our pleasure from healthy food sources.

Food is literally energy, and what—besides food—gives us a greater sense of renewed energy than connecting with people we love while practicing mindfulness and taking care of our bodies?

Food is not intended to be a way of trying to eat away our anxieties to calm our nerves of whatever is stressing us out. Yes, there is a calming effect from food, but we can’t eat our way out of worry. That type eating pours on the pounds. Not good!

Food’s purpose is not only to fuel our body, but it is also a means to evoke positive, happy feelings whether we eat alone or together with friends or family. Also, in appreciation for the gift of abundant and healthy food, we give God thanks with deepest gratitude. So, at the table we worship and enjoy fellowship with the Lord. Jesus said, “Open the door and I’ll come right in and sit down to supper with you!” (Revelation 3:20). 

Finally, the Bible has many references to the enjoyment and happiness food brings especially when shared with others. In the Old Testament, Laban, Jacob’s after-in-law threw a big feast after he gave his daughter in marriage to Jacob. “Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to make love to her.” So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast

Jesus loved feasts and banquets and attended and enjoyed many of them. In fact, His first miracle took place at the wedding feast in Cana where He turned the water into wine. The host had no more wine. It was as if Jesus said, “I’ll take care of the shortage. Let the happy feast continue!”(John 2). 

And talk about happy eating!  There will be a happy feast for us in heaven!  Imagine that!  Wow!

“Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride (we, the church) has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure.  And the angel said[a] to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God’ (Revelation 19:6-9). 

We can begin to develop a whole new approach to eating through the enjoyment of our food with thankfulness and by eating mindfully and slowly rather than hurriedly grabbing it and gulping it down. Such a thankful and mindful approach to eating will calm the emotions and create a healthier body and happier mind. Plus in all likelihood, we will even shed a few pounds in the process. 

“So, I’m all for just going ahead and having a good time—the best possible. The only earthly good men and women can look forward to is to eat and drink well and have a good time—compensation for the struggle for survival these few years God gives us on earth” (Ecclesiastes 8:15 MSG). 

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