Your Dietary Pursuit of Happiness
As the host for our intensives and workshops at the Summit Lodge, the most important component of my role is preparing our meal plans for the week and providing a variety of foods with the hope of meeting everyone's dietary needs. With the new year upon us, I’d like to share some of the ways I decide what food to make and what goes into the preparation of our meals. But first I’d like to say that I’m not a doctor, I don’t play one on T.V. and the way I make food-related choices might not be for everyone. However, if you’re open to the idea that we all have a qualified resource within that we can learn to develop to better inform our decisions - especially when it comes to food - then I invite you to keep reading.
During one of our programs, Finding You, for example, we aim to support the food requests of each participant, whether that’s a dietary consideration like gluten-free or a peanut allergy and we have to remove all unsafe food products from the lodge. The goal is to make the Summit Lodge a place where everyone feels safe and supported as they dive deeper into their personal work; the food plays a subtle but key role in our investment towards the process. Each meal is an offering to the group as a whole, in a way that an individual can fulfill their unique preferences. For example: at breakfast, we could have steel cut oats, with fresh berries, nuts, coconut chips, dairy and dairy-free yogurt, and maybe a croissant with other toppings plus a fresh pot of pressed coffee. Having the options served individually allows everyone to have it how they like - if someone doesn’t like walnuts they can simply leave them out and make the oatmeal how they prefer. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner typically take a similar format with a few core dishes and then a variety of options on the side.
When I’m making a grocery list for a workshop, I look over the applications to see if there are any dietary restrictions or concerns, and I consider some of the other variables as well like what’s in season, group size, and potential alternatives. I might be able to find apples in the store year round, but that doesn’t mean they’re in season. I try to stay flexible and keep an open mind when planning the meals because I can’t always find what I’m looking for at the local grocery store here in town. For instance, I could plan to make tacos with fresh salsa and homemade guacamole, but when I get to the store there aren’t enough avocados which means I’ll have to find another solution if I want that meal to go as planned. When I’m choosing ingredients, I like to pick them by hand, to use my senses and feel their quality so I can decide if they will do the job for the meal I have planned. If I can’t find what I’m looking for, I can always rely on another recipe, or another food ingredient like swapping one vegetable for another, sweet potato instead of red for example.
Simply put, I use my intuition. Though I’ve read a stack of nutrition books, listened to lectures and worked in a health market for a couple of years in my teens where I learned nutrition principles - I still rely upon my intuition more than anything else when it comes to food. Certainly, I can do this for myself better than I can for anyone else. But I’m not trying to predict what food will cure someones physical ailments or help them decide whether or not to make a life-changing decision (though I’m sure there’s a diet for that). What I am trying to do is imagine what foods might best provide a warm and inviting refuge that supports a light-hearted gathering at the dinner table and then let the group make their own decisions. I believe we all have the capacity to look within and search for a meaningful signal that might guide us to a better quality of life. Food can play a major role in how we feel and function in pursuit of our vision and personal philosophy. Whether it’s choosing ingredients for a recipe or waiting in line at a food court in the airport, I take my time by first taking a pause and reflecting inwards. One breath can be enough time to just listen, to quiet the inner critic and pause the to-do list, to just accept where I’m at today.
That’s the inner resource I’m referring to; the definition for intuition is the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning; a thing that one knows or considers likely from instinctive feeling rather than conscious reasoning. The gut feeling. What I am suggesting is that this can be a powerful ally in making adjustments in one's life. If “you are what you eat” then what are you? I can wholeheartedly say that some days I really want to be an apple pie with ice cream, and there are days when I can be proud and thankful for that opportunity and there are other times when that is not in my best interest and after taking a moment to pause and reflect, I just might move onto a different option that better serves my needs. Hippocrates said, “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” which in our current times can be very confusing with so many contradicting messages and fad diets. While I urge you to find scientific resources that inform your dietary pursuit of happiness, I believe the most well established, specific and insightful source still remains within all of us. Taking a moment to be mindful and reflect before making decisions is one way that I’ve been able to access some of my own, I hope this inspires you to seek yours.