Hi, I am Nu Davidson a Zimbabwean born but living in Cape Town, South Africa. I come from a BIG family and went to boarding school so food has always been a focus, not necessarily because it’s always been delicious food, but because gathering around food as a family or in the boarding house was how we ate each meal. So a meal alone in peace was not a thing in my life, which often lead me to rush most of my meals and not really enjoy and savor the experience.
Which for boarding school was most likely not a bad thing as boarding in the bush during junior school, the food was merely to keep hungry kids fed, favor and quality was not exactly a priority, to say the least. This was then a complete change when I came to boarding school in Cape Town to a prestigious school where food spoke volumes to the among this all-girls school. As many refused to eat the food provided which was not to their standard (which was luxury to me in comparison to the bush school I had just come from) but it leads to many suffering from eating disorders and other bodily issues. So they got a dietitian in to ensure the meals were “suitable” to young females, who aspired to lose weight and fell to the social pressure of needing to look a certain way.
I am a foodie in the sense that I LOVE to eat food, I have a great appreciation for textures and flavors in food and really enjoy the experience of eating, NOW. It has always been a focus point for me, as the best (and worst) conversations have all happened mostly around food.
Coming from a life in boarding school, where every meal you had to fight to get your share or you were force-fed it to ensure you ate for the day. It has taken me a few years of practicing conscious eating to bring me a new appreciation and respect for food. Although food was a focal point in my life, it was not always a positive one. As boarding school food taught us you eat whatever you’re given with gratitude, you also had to eat even if you weren’t hungry or really didn’t like the meal, force-feeding was a very real reality for the beginning of my food relationship. As you were also not allowed to leave any food on your plate, or you would be punished for wasting, so even if you were full to the brim you ate every last thing on your plate. This was also something my family adopted, as my gran was a lady who lived through the war, so in her day waste was not an option. This force eating was something that I carried with me for most of my life and only until I made the conscious effort to want to change my relationship with food, and learn to savor the food and enjoy it, as opposed to shoveling it in quickly to get it over and done with. I practiced conscious eating which CHANGED the game for me!
This is a practice in which you awaken your senses with eating, and become more conscious of your eating experience. Starting by closing your eye’s, smelling your food, feeling the texture of your food with your fingers (clean of course), Taking one bite as slowly as you can, chewing it slowly, becoming aware of each flavor hitting your tongue, acknowledging the textures and tastes as you slowly take one bite as a time and chew until there is nothing left to chew in your mouth and your body naturally swallows it. Savoring every moment. This practice allowed me to learn to listen to my body, to feel what food my body dislikes and desires . Through this remapping I learned my body was not happy with the fuel I was giving it, I thought this was normal to feel lethargic and bloated and generally not always comfortable. So I started really listening to my body, taking out food types, and seeing how it made me feel. I removed dairy, for 30 days then tried to reintroduce it slowly and my body rejected it, I did the same with red meat and my body rejected it. , and slowly but surely I went through most of the main food groups and did this elimination and reintroduction until I learned to hear what my body was asking for. In this journey I realised food was so much more than just fuel, it serves a greater purpose not only in a physical sense but for me a very much an emotional sense too. Our bodies will always know what it needs and wants, we just have to learn to truly hear it.
The very first memory that popped to my mind when reading this was about 15 years ago now so I was in my teens and in the midst of my body battle , confident on the outside but at conflict on the inside. I remember being served a meal at school and it was oily lasagana and I really REALLY did not want to eat it. I literally had to take my napkin and dab off the excess oil , so as you can imagine this was making my body turn inwards. It was fatty and oily and I had bad skin at the time (new hormons) I was plump to say the least and I was nearly in tears having to eat this meal, but as it was my conditioning that one must eat what you have on your plate ,and ALL of it, and be grateful for the meal. Which I was so grateful to have food don’t get me wrong, but it was a war inside of myself, with each bite the war in my head and my body got bigger and bigger until I eventually proceeded to vomit all over the table in the dinning hall. I was amused and embaressed all at the same time, laughing, crying and vomiting, it was quiet a sight ! Needless to say I luckily can see the humor in my trauma at the time.