Food, Nourishment, and the Healing Journey, Part 2

Principle 2 | Food is not simply fuel for our bodies. Food can also provide nourishment for our souls, minds, and hearts. Are we biological organisms that require food to fuel our activities? Of course. Do organisms thrive with the proper caloric energy balance and the nutrients? Absolutely. But we are more than biological organisms, and food is more than fuel. Food has the capacity to provide sensual pleasure, as well as enhance emotional and relational comfort. When my son visits from college for the weekend, a home-cooked meal provides a warm welcome of home and belonging. When I am sick and my husband brings me soup, I am comforted by the food and the caring gesture. Food can be celebratory. As one of my guides recently pointed out to me, the Biblical narrative ends with the banquet table of the wedding feast! Food can represent meaningful tradition and expressions of love. My husband has fond memories of cookies and candies that his beloved grandmother prepared every Christmas. He especially loved her “Martha Washington” candies, a flavorful mix of chocolate, coconut, and pecans. Grandma Gwen’s hand-written recipes are a treasure passed down to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Her gift of baking connects us as generations and evokes warm family memories.
Food as a connector of humanity is an aspect of its goodness. We see this reflected in the life of Christ, as he turned water into wine for a wedding, he fed the 5000 with bread and fish, and he celebrated the Last Supper with his closest companions. At the same time, food is not primarily a means of comfort or pleasure. We are relational creatures and we need relational nourishment through presence, dialogue, touch, and service. Using food to disconnect from others can be a destructive abuse of its purpose. Aside from the dangers of excess calories, using food as a substitute for relationship deprives us of the relational comfort we need in order to thrive and grow. When we when we fail to reach out to others or God in our time of distress, when we use food to avoid our feelings or legitimate longings for intimacy, it becomes an addiction. Addiction is most often rooted in disconnection from God and others. Balance in our approach to food as bodily fuel, sensual pleasure, and relational connector is key. Balanced eating makes space for food as fuel, but also allows space for us to truly enjoy the goodness of food and share that experience with others. This is true nourishment.

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