You know how relationship experts say that expecting your significant other to be your everything – soul mate, psychic, shrink, shopping buddy – is asking for trouble? And yet a lot of us expect that much from food. We may ask from it not just nourishment and pleasure but consolation, stimulation, entertainment, an excuse to procrastinate, a place to chomp on our anger, and a friend who requires nothing in return. To set this – and ourselves – right, it’s necessary to be well fed before sitting down to eat.
I’m not talking about gorging on pancakes before going to the party the way Scarlett O’Hara did in Gone With the Wind, so she wouldn’t be hungry and fail to “eat like a lady” in public. It’s a different kind of nourishment – emotional, mental, spiritual – that keeps you filled up on the inside. When those parts of you are sated, you’ll make the best food choices for you at any given time. Only when this is in place can you safely “listen to your body” and its food cues. Otherwise, you’ll get cockeyed signals.
Oftentimes people give up on plant-based eating because they have a craving for eggs or dairy cheese, and they believe this indicates some nutritional deficit. That’s not it. Cravings are most often vestiges of past loves. Tell me you’ve never seen a picture of an old flame and gotten fluttery all over again, even if said ex left you in misery. It’s the same with food. If Grandma placated you with chocolate pudding, or your nostalgic college days were punctuated with pizza, you’re going to crave those foods when you’re short on comfort or excitement or some other “life nutrient” they just don't stock at Trader Joe’s.
Therefore, feast on fun and binge on beauty. Relish time with family and friends. Savor sweet moments, whether with a good book, a moving film, or your dog who loves you more than anybody, except possibly your mom. The idea is to become a connoisseur of the quotidian, a doyen of the day-to-day. This means that you’ll be someone who walks in the rain on purpose instead of complaining about getting caught in it. You’ll find more and more things interesting: nature, art, science, philosophy, your own life and everybody else’s. You’ll remember how to spell boredom but lose your ability to experience it.
Ultimately, you’ll wake up almost every day feeling that your cup is running over. Before this comes about as a delightful matter of course, you can aid the process by bringing to mind ten things for which you’re grateful in that virgin minute before your feet touch the floor in the morning. The more specific your list, the better. Saying “I’m grateful for Stan because he’s always so positive” is better than just “I’m grateful for friends,” because it’s easier to envision Stan than everyone you know (not to mention the people on Facebook whom you may only sort of know). But no worries on this: you can’t do it wrong.
Gratitude is gratifying and so is human contact. Collect people – especially those who are also on a Good Karma Diet journey. It’s wonderful to have people in your circle who reflect your values back to you. You know the business book, Never Eat Alone? That’s also great advice for feeling full on the inside. Every person is a world unto himself or herself, and any conversation may hold the phrase you need right now to steer your course precisely as it should go.
Nourish yourself and fill yourself with something beautiful to look at or touch or smell. Light candles for your bath and put a drop of lavender oil on your pillow. Paint a single wall red or yellow or purple. Have houseplants – ferns and ivy and mother-in-law’s tongue. They’ll clean the air you breathe, and one May morning an unassuming little plant just might bloom for you. On a similar note, never talk yourself out of a bouquet (“That’s $7.95 and they’ll just die anyway”), but think instead of Muhammad’s musing: “If I had but two loaves of bread, I’d sell one and buy hyacinths, for they would feed my soul.”
Excerpted from The Good Karma Diet: Eat Gently, Feel Amazing, Age in Slow Motion by Victoria Moran, with the permission of Tarcher/Penguin, a division of Penguin Random House. Copyright © 2015.