Friday, January 21, 2011

Body Painting

Food. We all need it and generally seek it out multiple times in a day if we are lucky enough to have it available.

They say that every 7 years our cells replace and regenerate themselves. Most of what made you physically whole 7 years ago isn’t here anymore today. Those cells have sloughed themselves off and left behind a brand new copy of you.

I noted this cell replacement theory when I got terrible frostbite in my feet one winter during an emergency when I went without shoes for an extended period in very cold weather. I could not feel my feet for weeks. When finally, some feeling returned, the same numbness in my feet was always waiting to return no matter how short a time I was outside or how warm I was dressed. This happened for exactly 7 years and then it stopped.

So what gets used as the building blocks to repeatedly renew the parts that make up our bodies? Food. Food is you. You are food. You are what you eat. Blah blah blah. You’ve heard it all before.

There is no arguing that food is essential to building your physical self. But there is also a non-tangible side to eating. It is a very vulnerable act. You make your choices, but then you are trusting food as your general contractor in charge of how your house is going to turn out.

We can develop not only a deep appreciation of food but an attachment to it as well. We gather around food. We celebrate with food. We express ourselves with food. We console our selves and each other with food. We give the gift of food. We entertain with food. We define our cultures by what we eat and how we eat it. We define our cultures by whether we have access to food. And at the end of this yellow brick road, we need it, regularly and always, to survive.

There is all this talk today about getting closer to the source of your food.
What does this mean exactly? Get to know your farmer? Read more labels? Educate yourself? Learn how to raise and grow food? Name your cow before you eat it?

Our relationship with food develops as we select it, prepare it and observe the circumstances around eating it. It also grows as you learn how it is planted, grown, harvested, prepared, preserved. There is a sensual experience to it. You can breathe in its aromas. You can know how it feels on your tongue, in your stomach, whether it gives you energy or makes you tired.

So maybe it is because of this or in spite of all of this that it becomes so easy to have an emotional dependence on food. It seems us women are particularly prone to this. We can sneak it, take more than our share of it, feel ashamed around it or rely on it for comfort. Like any intricate relationship, it can become a tangled cycle of love and hate. Apparently the human body can go a few weeks without food. I have never gone more than a few hours in my whole entire life. Never, not once. Usually an hour or two of uncontrolled separation is long enough to send me into a minor panic.

And for those of us who have an emotional attachment to food - is it any wonder when we end up in positions where making food is our art? Is it surprising when we migrate to an existence of wanting to uncover or deliver what sustains us? Asking to get to know your food intimately and not just superficially is like wanting to know what makes you whole. And if you don’t feel whole in the first place, perhaps you could use food to fix that.

I would venture to say that we eat what we are – or better, how we see ourselves. Enjoying food and appreciating all of the goodness and variety that it has to offer is one thing. Wouldn’t that be an excellent way to see your self? Full of goodness? But we can also use food to pacify feelings of inadequacy, and eat too much, often mostly junk. Or we can feel like we are too much to handle, and not eat at all. We can use it as a cry for help or protection from a storm. Either way we are in a constant action and reaction to our lives through food. I hesitate to speak for anyone but myself here, but I’ve seen so many women use food as the brush with which they paint themselves onto a canvas for the world to see.

Is it possible that digging down to the roots of food is an attempt to make the relationship with our bodies right again? Is this a way to literally get closer to our origins? What better connection to heal and make healthy than the one we have with food?

There is so much more I could say about this. But I am going to rest now tonight. And possibly go and paint myself a picture.

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