Review of “Nourishing Wisdom” by Marc David Written by Sunny Rehler
This is one of the few books, which discusses our relationship with food from a primarily spiritual perspective. As the author states in the first chapter, “Placed within a spiritual context, the ultimate goal of any dietary philosophy is to take us fully into the body and beyond the body… By nourishing the body with joy and reverence, we nourish the spark of life within the body.” In other words, while feeding the body to keep physically healthy, we are also feeding our heart and soul – especially when we eat with joy and reverence, while tuning into our “body wisdom”.
To eat with joy and reverence, it is helpful to appreciate that through the foods we eat we are connected to the rest of the universe, either directly or indirectly. We eat foods, which come from minerals, algae, fungi, plants and animals. It is helpful to offer a prayer of gratitude for those various sources of our food, as well as the gardeners, farmers and many others, who sold us these foods and/or brought them to us. Our prayer may include expression of gratitude for all our support systems, as well as the support systems of the plants and animals we use as foods. This may include our neighbors (who may also be gardeners), as well the water, fresh air, sunshine and, indeed, the earth itself.
This appreciation helps to “ground” us and feel spiritually connected to other life forms or all types. We more easily eat with joy when we reflect on the fact that our nourishment is a symbol of our inclusion in the web of life! Note that there is a close connection to healthy nourishment and the resilience of the community in which we are imbedded. As stated in the colorful drawing by Annemarie Barrett: “Resilience is Rooted in Relationship”. This could apply both to the relationships of our community members, as well as our relationship to the foods we eat.
Unfortunately there are many obstacles to fostering a healthy relationship with our food. We have been bombarded by multiple, conflicting dietary recommendations about optimal nutrition, which confuse us. In addition ethnic and cultural norms may conflict with recommendations, which we feel are more “scientific”.
However even “scientific” guidelines about optimal nutrition vary widely depending who is funding the research and paying for dissemination of the information. It is well known that the dairy and meat industries, as well as corporate profits from various other food industries have a huge impact on what information gets out to the general public. (1)
If we are fortunate, we may find a dietary plan, which seems to work for us for a time. As time goes on however, our bodies and dietary needs change. There is no dietary plan, as explained by the author, which works for us at all times of our lives. Our bodies and health issues change over time and a dietary plan which works for us in one season or year, may not be appropriate in another season or another year. Our dietary needs constantly evolve depending on our age, activity level, environment in which we live, and various health issues. Marc David summarizes these ideas in a chapter entitled: “Changing Body, Changing Diet”.
As we decide what and how much to eat of each food or good group in a typical meal, we may attempt to make these decisions based on what we have read or what our mentors have advised us to achieve our health goals. In connection with these decisions many of us label some foods as “bad” for us and others are “good” for us.
However Marc David writes “There is no such thing as a good food or a bad food.” If we believe that some foods are bad, we then feel guilty about eating too much of the “bad” foods. We may become depressed and/or have a sense of worthless due to our lack of self-control.
Such anxiety however not only disturbs us in an emotional way, but (according to the author) PREVENTS us from digesting and absorbing all the nutrients which are contained in the foods we eat! This is a type of eating disorder and unfortunately such anxiety while eating can become a life-long habit.
“Nourishing Wisdom” was written well before the current pandemic. It seems clear however that added to the stress of the current pandemic a habitual eating disorder can easily transform into a major health problem. According to the ANAD (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders) eating disorders are becoming more common due to the stress and isolation caused by social distancing, wearing face masks and lack of touching among family and friends (no hugging, no handshakes, etc.)
Calls for help with eating disorders have been increasing during the pandemic among both adults and kids. The latest numbers from the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, or ANAD, show calls to their helpline have almost quadrupled. They were seeing around 80 calls a month prior to the pandemic. Now, it’s around 230. “The isolation that people were feeling at the beginning in some ways has become even more protracted just because of the duration of this pandemic and the continued stay-at-home measures and the social distancing precautions and things like that. Then, there’s the continued uncertainty about the future,” said Lynn Slawsky, Executive Director at ANAD.
The author devotes an entire chapter to what he calls “The Psychobiology of Chewing”. He writes in this chapter that “most people habitually fail to chew, swallowing food …whole”. However insufficient chewing has a negative effect on our digestion and assimilation of nutrients. Indeed this is one of the central teachings of macrobiotics. This is discussed in a book by Lino Stanchich, a world-renowned macrobiotic educator(2).
Sufficient chewing however is only one of the principles to keep in mind for optimal nutrition. David lists and describes these principles in the last few chapters. They include such principles as “whole body eating”, natural alignment (posture while eating), intention, body awareness, mindfulness and synergy. By synergy he means understanding how our diet works “in synergy with other factors such as exercise, sleep cycles, breath patterns, emotions.”
This book may the missing link, which gives us a deeper level of understanding about our relationship with food.I highly recommend it for anyone who desires a healthier relationship with food.
(1) “Whole – Rethinking the Science of Nutrition” by T. Colin Campbell with Howard Jacobson. (BenBella Books 2014)
(2) “Power Eating Program, You Are How You Eat” by Lino Stanchich (Healthy Products Inc 1989)