Last week I was on a panel discussion that took place after a screening of Food, Inc. If you haven't seen the documentary yet, put it on your list of things to do soon. It's disturbs me more each time I see it. Not that I want you to be disturbed, but it will make you think about where your food comes from. And that's a good thing.
The discussion after the screening touched on a number of topics but the one I thought worthwhile sharing was about the need to educate our children about food.
What struck me as we spoke was that many conversations on the topic of educating anyone about food, be it child or adult, revolve around nutrition — why we need to eat well for health. There's often little discussion of the Joy of Food. Yet we know we can better engage people in doing anything, even eating well, if we make a good case of the pleasure to be found in it.
This isn't a new concept. There have been plenty of books written about the motivating power of pleasure when it comes to putting a healthy lifestyle in place, and I'm sure (or hope) it's part of the some of the new efforts going on to improve the meals served in schools. Yet it's worthwhile emphasizing because it's a concept that is easily forgotten in the zeal to protect or improve our health. And there often seems to be a degree of guilt around the idea that we respond so positively to pleasure. That somehow it's a bad thing to seek pleasure in much of what we do.
The Pleasure of Connection
One way to look at the pleasure to be derived from healthy eating is that we'll feel better. But what is it that adds up to us feeling better? In large part, I think it's about happiness.
So what adds up to happiness? Too much to put in a short post but one of my top strategies for marrying happiness and eating well is to make it social. Not social as in going out to eat. For various reasons, eating in restaurants regularly just doesn't make it as a strategy for healthy eating. I'm talking about social as in shopping, cooking and, yes, eating together, whether it be with family or friends, giving our every day meals the spotlight in our lives that they deserve.
This isn't a new concept either. It's one that's easily observed in action in other countries such as Italy, where great-tasting, healthy meals shared daily with family and friends are a central part of the culture. The health derived from that comes as much from the sustenance found in the connection as it does from the sustenance found in the food.
What are some of your strategies for making healthy eating = happiness?