The simple act of sitting down to enjoy a meal is actually one of the most important choices we can make in aiding an elevated lifestyle. Our fast-paced culture is filled with many technological miracles, yet we have disconnected from one of the most important aspects of our human existence: the sacredness and community of savoring dinner. Our ancestors were on to something – could a sit down meal hold the secret to a more joyful life (and healthy body?)
Let’s rewind and explore the origins of a good meal and why it’s greatly beneficial to our vitality.
In what ways did our ancestors nosh out?
Up into the Neolithic Period (10,000 years ago), time and preparation were key elements come dinnertime. For many cultures, eating off the land was simply a way of life – and the only way one attained nourishment. Without fast-food stops and factory farming, foraging the forests, rivers, or fields and gardens for food were the only options (Fun fact: The Tsimane of Bolivia are among the last few scattered tribes of hunter-gatherers on the planet!) Eating a meal with family meant discipline and seasonal planning. Not only that, the act of sitting down and having enough light to see the dinner took thought. Firewood, candles, and natural light were essential components to dining in.
Why was this way biologically better for our bodies?
It’s important to note that we way we “graze” and digest our meals in modern times is anything but what amplifies our biological performance. One of the best ways to compare our modern habits to ancient practices is to see a side-by-side illustration of what it looks like. Consider the chart below:
Ancient Meals Modern Meals
Sat by candlelight or campfire. Sits under fluorescent lights.
Prepared meals weeks in advance. Rushes to buy prepared meal.
Ate slowly, drank slowly, savored. Hurriedly cleans plate.
Conversated, philosophized, laughed. Argues, watches TV, stands.
Obviously, not every modern day meal is prepared and eaten this way, but the juxtaposition of the past with the present serves as a potent reminder that many of these lost practices were sacred – almost an art form. Chewing slowly, eating by candlelight, and enjoying meals in the company of friends and family are scientifically proven to be better for our wellbeing. Not only does eating more slowly improve digestion, but it also prevents overeating, and slims your waistline. Couple that with the amber-spectrum, melatonin-friendly light emitted from a candle or fireplace, and you have a happy gut and better night’s sleep.
Pro-tip: Taking the time to really chew your food is an excellent mindfulness practice. How many chews will do? Most studies seem to suggest 40 chews per bite (phew!), but even just 25 is a great start.
Let’s stop the clock and start eating the right away.
What’s great about connecting the dots from the past is the ability to see how far we have advanced in society. With the great power of technology and information comes a great responsibility to preserve our health and planet. Each decision we make is an investment for our future generation. Could gathering together to enjoy a meal make a planetary difference? Let’s find out.
Here are a few tips to bring us closer together at the dinner table:
Practice the Art of Stopping Time:
- Plot out points throughout the day where you just…stop. Notice the shapes of the clouds, feel the sunlight on your face, breathe in your hot cup of coffee.
- Plan a dinner date with loved ones. Our society runs at a much faster rate than the past, but that’s ok because with the right tools we can learn to accommodate with modern times. Even if it’s a weekly event, make the time to reconnect with friends and family over a meal.
- Prepare a menu. While it’s not always possible to get a full meal cooking in the kitchen, planning out meals from time to time can help instil the thoughtfulness of seeking out great ingredients and fresh foods. Have the day off? Make a meal of it!
- Eat outside. This one sounds very simple, but just taking your lunch break outdoors can make a huge difference in your overall mood.
Ultimately, every conscious decision we make can turn into a moving meditation. Notice the little things – it will add up to a life rich in fulfillment and joy shared with others.