75. Lip Service

75. Lip Service

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Shaping the New You

Lip Service

Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking
if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.
 ~Voltaire

When I was a child, my mother taught me to say grace before eating a meal. That was one of her house rules. I’d whisper: “Bless us oh Lord and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty. . . .” Through the years I’d always done that without fail—my brain sometimes on autopilot. One day, in a moment of perfect clarity, I actually took the time to look at the “meal” I was about to consume and made an interesting discovery: not one item on the plate in front of me came from nature’s bounty at all. That was my ah-ha moment.

On the spot, I started recording every morsel I could remember ingesting that week. That simple diary revealed nothing but processed, pre-packaged fare loaded with artery-clogging trans fats and artificial ingredients I couldn’t even pronounce. I had been consuming a cornucopia of candy bars, corn dogs, colas and deep-fried pastries. I couldn’t recall the last time I had actually consumed anything that was truly a raw, living food occurring naturally in nature. My body had ballooned to a whopping 160 pounds, and I was often tired, out of sorts and languishing from some non-specific malaise. At that moment, I resolved to redeem some of those “gifts” that were available to me in nature’s bountiful supply—to at least be true to myself and to the childhood prayer I had been parroting all those years.

To my amazement, I discovered a totally new section of the supermarket where living food not only resided but abounded: melons at their peak of ripeness, beautifully textured squash and pumpkins all vibrantly alive and brimming from a brilliant palette of colors that screamed at me to be eaten. Hadn’t I been in this store countless times? Had I been too busy ransacking the snack aisle to even notice? At home, I inventoried my fridge, evicting the frozen pizzas and other sodium-laden mystery food that had taken up residence there. I purged my pantry, slam-dunking the carbonated sugary sodas and replacing them with natural juices and herbal teas.

I started experimenting with different spices and herbs. Like the French, I learned to let food linger on my tongue for a while—to actually taste and then chew fully, rather than wolfing it down my gullet like I usually did. I learned to savor the deliciousness—in short, to be in the moment with my dining experience. I learned to grill vegetables, to slather them with natural spices to enhance their flavor instead of the sour cream and butter that had been my MO. My kitchen sprang alive with fragrant fresh herbs and seasonings, citrusy and woodsy scents. I was overwhelmed that I had never appreciated this simplicity before. Another payoff: my overall digestion improved and I started sleeping more soundly at night. Before long I had whittled 25 pounds off my body and four inches from my waistline!

I began to value the awesome design of raw vegetables and fruits, to enjoy them in their entirety, skins and all, their natural sheaths loaded with flavor and nutrients. I marveled at the unique beauty inherent in their patterns—in their very DNA. By replanting the seeds hidden inside them, I was able to reproduce for another day the unadulterated goodness I had just consumed. From my humble garden, I began to reap the benefits of a more healthful diet, and the pounds continued to drop off. Finally, I learned to accept the gifts from nature that had always been accessible to me—I just had never slowed down long enough to observe and relish. My humble garden provided not only a harvest of nourishment, but a haven of serenity and quiet reflection.

Along with exercise and sleeping more soundly, I began to morph into a more alert, focused individual, my once nutrition-deprived brain now fully engaged and relieved of its often debilitating brain fog. Too often breakfast had either been totally non-existent or a quick powdered donut. Lunchtime meant scurrying to the nearest fast food drive-thru to snag something—anything—on the fly so I could race back to my desk job; dinner was often a delivered pizza devoured at home in front of my laptop. Now, in my newly refocused world, I started to put more deliberate effort into planning my meals. I stopped limiting myself to pre-packaged snack attack foods that were filling me out and not up.

Before eating, I still offer that same childhood blessing, but the words resonate with new meaning. Now I have an acute awareness that food represents health for my body—not a quick fix to ease some momentary ennui. Now every food I eat is “comfort” food because I’m more in sync with the very source that provided it, and I bestow honor in the way I receive that gift. I have repositioned fruits and vegetables at the core of my eating, while still enjoying meat, but in much smaller portions. I still indulge in that occasional decadent chocolate treat, but, surprisingly, it takes less of it to satisfy me. More importantly, I am in the moment with my universe and the gifts that have already been provided for me in abundance, naturally occurring and right there for the taking. A childhood blessing mouthed in haste—no longer lip service, has evolved into a daily prayer of thanksgiving.

~Elaine K. Green

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