What is eating actually like for you?
Maybe eating is something you enjoy, or maybe it’s more like a chore.
Eating is something you might do alone or with others.
Or maybe when you eat tricky thoughts or emotions come up like feelings of guilt or shame, or thoughts asking “why did I just do that?”
Yesterday I shared with you a bit of my journey with science.
I also shared my thoughts on how the interpretation of science and research can be reduced to categories that might inadvertently lead us astray.
But let’s focus on the beauty found within the beginnings of science… This will most definitely help you to explore your relationship with food much more deeply.
Today is about curiosity.
My name is Krystal Merrells. I’m a registered dietitian and a concussion warrior in Ontario, Canada.
I’ve had multiple concussions and I’ve seen how food can become this big stressful thing after a brain injury. I am here to help you move towards feeling good with food.
This is Food Love. A 14-day mini-series exploring your relationship with food.
Today is day 4: Try some curiosity
If since your brain injury or chronic illness you’ve been searching for therapies, perhaps you’ve come across posts, papers, or professionals talking about “mindfulness.”
I certainly did.
And I was super surprised the first time I shared this with another person – they scoffed and rolled their eyes at just the mention of the word “mindfulness!”
At that point in my recovery, I had been living for years under the figurative rock that was my post concussion symptoms. And apparently in that time mindfulness became sort of a buzzword – a popular wellness culture trend I had no idea existed.
But my experience with mindfulness was in therapy with my psychologist.
It’s beyond today’s goal, not to mention my scope, to discuss the full art and science of mindfulness. I’m simply sharing this story because embedded within mindfulness is the concept of curiosity. This was most useful to me and applies very well to nurturing your relationship with food.
Think about how popular wellness culture typically talks about food.
For me, I hear a lot of “don’t eat this, don’t eat that,” and words like “toxic,” “clean,” and “pure” get thrown around.
In other words, to me, popular wellness culture dictates how a person should label food.
Like if instead of food it was a radio show or podcast, this popular culture would tell you:
“Don’t listen to this, don’t listen to that. That podcast is toxic, but these other ones are clean and pure…”
Kind of ridiculous, eh?
And now imagine if that was applied beyond podcasts to movies, travel destinations, hobbies…
There would be a lot of the world that you would miss out on. Or, in my experience post TBI, a lot MORE of my limited world I wouldn’t get to experience.
But curiosity allows you to experience a hobby, podcast, or food without pressure.
Instead, curiosity lets you experience something new, or even something familiar, in a completely different way.
Looking, sensing, listening to, smelling, and/or tasting foods with curiosity allows you to experience much more of that food, and helps you decide for yourself how it may or may not fit with your diet.
Because you’re approaching the food with interest and without pressure to like it, dislike it, or commit to eating it, you’re free from the stress, guilt, and shame we sometimes unnecessarily associate with food.
I’ll give you another great example from my experience post TBI, when I started dating for the first time!
I was still dealing with persistent concussion symptoms — major fatigue, sensitivity to noise and light, difficulty with screens, and some anxiety when out in busy places.
And then there were all the horror stories from my non-TBI friends about just how miserable dating could be!
Yet I still felt ready to take on dating as an experiment.
And that’s kind of how I looked at it.
I had never really even dated before my concussions, and certainly not online. There was one voice in my mind telling me all the perils that could be:
“Don’t spend too much time on this or it’ll cause a setback.” “Don’t get your hopes up.” “Some people are toxic.” “Only have conversations with people who seem perfect…”
As much as that voice was trying to protect me, I acknowledged it then chose to run the experiment with curiosity anyways.
I went into each date with the idea that there is something interesting about everyone – even if we’re really different people and not a great match – my goal was to find that interesting thing.
And it worked!
Not every date was a knock out of the park. But each one was entertaining in their own way.
I came home reflecting on the experiment, the emotions, and the thoughts it brought up, without the pressure to label it or myself “good” or “bad,” if those labels weren’t helpful.
I’m sharing this because I’ve had a number of clients who stress out over food as much as some people stress out over dating and finding “the one.”
I am no matchmaker, but I feel confident to say that stressing doesn’t work for dating, and it certainly doesn’t work for food.
So your reflection today is an exercise that actually uses a piece of food.
Pick any food item you may have on hand — a raisin, a cracker, an egg, a piece of broccoli, a cookie — any food item that is accessible and that feels safe to you.
Now, get curious about it.
Can you notice something about this food item you hadn’t before?
What sound it makes if you rub it in your hands, pull it a part or squish it?
How it feels in your hand or on your skin?
Approach this food item with the curiosity of a science experiment!
Then, if you wish, share this food experiment with me and others on social media. It’s a great way to spread food curiosity with others! And you can tag me @brain.mind.nutrition.
Keep up the good work! Tomorrow we will talk about fish, but in a way you just won’t expect 🙂
Best in food love,