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Food and Values - Compassion

February 5, 2017

Note: I recently went through an exercise of identifying my highest values. This is one of a series of posts looking at how those values intersect with my relationship to food and my food choices.

 

Recent world events have gotten me thinking a lot about compassion, another of my core values. It is easy to consider how this might come out in daily interactions with people, but how does it relate to food?

 

A few things come to mind. The first is probably familiar – after all, when someone doesn’t feel well, often our first impulse is to give food. This can range from chicken noodle soup for those with colds or flus, chocolate or ice cream (or chocolate ice cream) for someone in emotional distress, or perhaps a casserole for someone more seriously ill or in mourning. What is this if not an expression of compassion?

 

Then there’s the question of how we treat ourselves or others based on what we or they eat. It is all too easy to fall into the trap of judgment if someone’s food choices are not the most nutritionally sound, but what if instead we react with compassion? That’s certainly a kinder approach, not just for the other person, but for ourselves, if we can recognize what might drive those choices and respond with an attempt at understanding and empathy.

 

And then another, less obvious, connection is that we tend to be more compassionate when we are well-fed.

 

Studies have shown this, how judges give more lenient sentences when they’ve come back from lunch, rather than right before. You may have also noticed this in your own life as well, either in yourself or others. I know I can certainly get snappish and impatient when my blood sugar drops, threatening my ability to make compassionate choices or responses.

 

Which makes me wonder – what does it mean for our world when so many people are going hungry? Not just those who don’t have enough to eat, but those who choose to go hungry in an effort to lose weight, or stay thin. Are we unintentionally fostering systems and ways of being that separate us from our compassionate nature? And if so, how might things change if we made sure everyone had enough to eat, and also didn’t feel the need to impose starvation on themselves?

 

I certainly don’t have those answers, but it’s worth thinking about. And maybe it’s worth noticing how your food choices impact your own actions and compassion.

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