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Food shapes all aspects of our lives. It can determine where we live or what we do for a living. For many, food builds valuable memories and experiences. Its no wonder that food is tied so closely to ritual. Food rituals in the past we're present everywhere and can teach us about conscious and healthful eating.

Community Meals

In the Middle Ages, an entire family would gather around a hearth for a meal. In the upper levels of society, even the servants would join this great, communal gathering. Trenchers and drinking vessels we're frequently shared, and often some form of entertainment or scriptural reading occurred.

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In the modern world, we have increasingly come to consider eating something that takes time out of our busy schedules. We grab what we can, eat when and where we can, and with little regard to the community around us. High-end restaurants build booths taller and more enclosed. The loss of community meals leads to hurried, mindless eating. Families that continue the ritual of eating together have more harmonious meals and are more satisfied with their food.

Feast and Fast

When eating was tied to the church in earlier centuries, what you could eat and even when you could eat we're regulated. Early Christians frequently fasted for two days per week. On Saints day, there would be feasts to celebrate the patron of the day. Today we know that alternating the amount you eat each day refreshes your metabolic rate and increases your health. And a few studies have found that periodic fasting maybe a valuable aid in weight loss. Spiritually, fasting allows for a period of contemplation, leaving you truly thankful for the food you are receiving.

Prayers and Blessings

Thanksgiving has been a part of food rituals for as long as man has had history. There are Irish prayers from before the Bronze Age thanking the Dagda (the good god) for his gifts. Similarly, in Christian Europe, saying prayers or grace over your meal was an essential part of the ritual of sitting down to eat.

Giving thanks, independent from any particular religion or faith, continues to show benefits. When we are thankful, we are grateful. Gratitude leads to true conscious eating. How many fewer candy bars would we eat if we stopped to give thanks for each one? How much more slowly would we eat increasing the quality of both taste and digestion if we stopped to be grateful for every bite? How much more would we give to others if we we're compassionate about their lack of food?

With occurrences of obesity rising and hunger continuing to be an international problem, we can learn from these rituals of the past. By infusing our meals with thanksgiving, slowing down, and including the community, we can begin to address these issues. The health benefits of this pairing have too long been ignored. Food and ritual, when paired, can promote conscious eating.

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