SAVOR’s resolutions

When I retired from my clinical role in 2019, I’d spent over fifteen years counseling clients on a variety of concerns, with a long-standing specialty in mindfulness-based eating disorder treatment. Training in self-compassionate awareness led individuals to develop a more positive relationship with food and their bodies.

Also, I adore food. I love growing, cooking, eating, reading, and talking about it.  Food is my love language. I’m at my happiest when I’m helping others reclaim their birthright of pleasure and connection with food.

So, in the face of the typical New Year’s resolutions that often focus upon what we shouldn’t be eating, and all of the associated “dangers” of food, I’ve put together this short list.

Remember, a mindfulness-based approach to food isn’t about giving up things you love – it’s about learning how to show up more fully, savor what’s available, and make informed decisions that best serve you.

Let’s break these SAVOR resolutions down:

1. Eat real food.

Really, it’s even simpler: Eat food. Feed your mind and body because it works hard for you. You deserve to be fed. (Yes, you do, sweetheart).

Your HAES-informed physician can give you general guidelines about what to eat but bodies’ needs vary by age, activity level, gender, and other factors. That being said, experts agree that it’s best to include as many whole foods as possible in your diet, and try to limit overly processed foods. Eat as much real food as your budget and lifestyle allows, and minimize the middle man (i.e. the most processed and packaged aisles, usually positioned at the center of the store). Expect to eat imperfectly. Don’t beat yourself up. You’ve got a lifetime to practice these skills.

What this resolution is: An opportunity to strengthen your food literacy. A gift to your body. A political act that reduces our reliance on the industrial food complex, supports our farmers, and preserves our planet.

What this resolution isn’t: Dietary advice (because I’m not a licensed dietitian or nutritionist). Medical advice (because I’m not a physician). A back-door strategy to diet (i.e. restrict) and/or an excuse to only allow yourself a handful of foods that are organic + locally sourced + “clean,” even if your body clearly cries out for something different.

Suggestions for implementation:

  • Pick one meal to focus upon, for a month. Say, breakfast (yes, that meal you do need). Experiment with new food options.
  • Expand your snack repertoire. This isn’t about eating less food, but diversifying our palate.
  • Be wary of resources that include the keywords “weight loss,” “diet,” “obesity epidemic,” “low- or no-fat,” or an over-reliance on calorie monitoring.
  • Finally, feel free to skip this resolution. If you enjoy how you eat currently, and/or can’t change, maybe you skip to #3 – learn how to savor what you do eat so you don’t miss out on the party.

2. Get dirty.

Getting dirty is in service of the first resolution, because when we remove the shrink wrap (literally or figuratively), we’re getting more intimate with our food. It’s hard to get overly involved with a bag of chips or a frozen dinner – although true, you have to wash the orange cheese powder off your fingers later, which does take some effort (ha ha!). In my blog post on savoring, I talk about engaging in a savoring exercise with “my tree.” When we wade in deeper into our food experiences, it gets personal. Because it is personal.

What this resolution is: An invitation to develop a closer relationship with food. To experiment and play with it more (even though we were scolded for doing so, as children!).

What this resolution isn’t: An expectation that you’ll start cooking or growing every meal from scratch.

Suggestions for implementation:

  • Pick a new recipe to try each month. Something simple. Unless you’re a well-funded foodie, don’t tackle a recipe that requires you to buy fancy ingrediants like saffron threads or whole vanilla beans. At the end of the year, you’ll have tried 12 new things – not all of them will be winners, but a few might stick. That’s how I found our weekly staple of red lentil soup and another winter favorite, vegetarian chili (served with oven-fresh cornbread with honey butter, of course!).
  • Ask your friends for real food recipe suggestions. Ask farmers and their helpers at local farmer’s markets what they like to make with their products. Check out cookbooks from the library, and visit cooking blogs. Google “what to make with green beans.”
  • Attend a free community presentation held by your local plant nursery or Master Gardener association, to learn the basics of growing something edible. Check out YouTube. Watch Big Dreams, Small Gardens if you have Netflix. Get how-to gardening books from the library.

3. Show up.

As my earlier post on the practice of savoring outlined, a practice of mindfulness (present moment awareness) is critical so we don’t miss out on pleasurable experiences as we’re having them. Especially the yummy ones. How many of us eat…and scroll through social media, read a book, watch a screen, drive our cars, check our email?

Okay, most of our hands are up.

None of these activities are inherently bad but they require us to split our attention and often the sensory experience of eating and our bodies’ response to food gets short-changed. Check out this mindful eating handout I wrote many years ago. How often do you engage this fully with your food? For most of us, it’s a work in progress.

Showing up also means acknowledging the larger food system: the farmers who grow or tend our food (which includes living beings, like chickens and cows, if you eat them), and the workers who assist; the individuals that ship our food; the grocery stores; and the many cooks and food service workers. You know that saying, “it takes a village to raise a child?” Well, it takes a village to feed us. Much, much more on this later!

What this resolution is: An opportunity to enjoy the nourishment (body, heart, and soul) that is our birthright. A way to engage in values-directed action and support communities that matter to you. A chance to engage and contribute to food culture.

What this resolution isn’t: A partisan effort, because food literacy and activism crosses both sides of the aisle.  A preoccupation with food to the exclusion of other needs.

Suggestions for implementation:

  • Again, start small – pick a meal. Maybe you’re going to work on showing up for lunch at work, when you’re not distracted by your partner or small children at home. Practice mindfully eating the first couple of bites. Take a moment to name the many participants who contributed to your food experience. Take a mindful eating class.
  • Define your own revolutionary act. Pick one activity (two, tops!). Little steps count. They might overlap with the first two resolutions. Maybe it’s visiting a farmer’s market for the first time, or looking for the “local” tag in the grocery store. Or growing cherry tomatoes or herbs in a pot on your balcony. Or maybe you decide to volunteer for an organization like the Oregon Food Bank, or dine at more BIPoC-owned restaurants in your community.
  • Start a daily food gratitude practice (which works wonders to counter our biologically-programmed negativity bias + the negative messages we routinely receive about food). Name one thing you appreciate about the food you’re consuming. Model this practice for others.
  • Register to vote (not sure how? visit here or here). Then vote! Encourage others to vote. Learn about the companies and legislators who support your food values – and who doesn’t.