Discovering Whole Person INTEGRATIVE EATING
Alternative Medicine|February 2021
The idea to explore a multidimensional, ancient-food-wisdom approach to food and eating had its genesis in New Delhi, India, where my co-author and husband, behavioral scientist Larry Scherwitz, Ph.D., had been invited to present at the First International Conference on Lifestyle and Health. While there, I had the opportunity to interview clinical cardiologist Dr. K. L. Chopra—father and mentor of Deepak Chopra, M.D., who is an integrative medicine and personal-transformation pioneer—about a magazine article I was intending to write on yoga and diet.

When I asked Dr. Chopra about this, his response was immediate: “Prana is the vital life force of the universe, the cosmic force . . . and it goes into you, into me, with food. When you cook with love, you transfer the love into the food and it is metabolized . . . In former days (based on the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita), the tradition was for the mother to cook the food with love and then feed it to the children; only then would she eat.”

Food and love. The thought wouldn’t let go. My thinking: if Hindus believe that loving awareness is somehow transmuted into food—and that we “ingest” this vital force when we eat— then possibly other spiritual traditions would have discovered this too. As a nutrition researcher, I was fascinated by the possibility that consciousness could alter the food we eat. And, I wondered, might it also influence the metabolism of food and in turn health and healing? To find out, I began what I call my “nutrition journey around the world.”

An Ancient Food Wisdom Odyssey: Moving Forward by Looking Back

For millennia prior to the birth of nutritional science in the twentieth century, humankind turned to the wisdom traditions—world religions, cultural traditions, and Eastern healing systems—for guidelines about what and how to eat. Given this, my quest led me to unearth and unravel cross-cultural food and nutrition guidelines, beliefs, and rituals from both the East and West. These include the following:

1. Major world religions (i.e., Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism)

2. Cultural traditions (i.e., yogic nutrition, African-American soul food, Native American beliefs, the Japanese Way of Tea, Chinese food folklore)

3. Eastern healing systems that include food and nutrition guidelines (i.e., traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, Tibetan medicine)

4. Nutritional science studies (from research scientists worldwide)

Results from my research, which also includes interviews with more than fifty scientists, religionists, and spiritual experts, were published in my first book, Feeding the Body, Nourishing the Soul.

An Old-New View: 6 Principles, 4 Facets of Food

When Larry and I stepped back to make sense of the enormous amount of ancient food wisdom we had amassed, we realized it encompasses six perennial principles that in turn comprise four facets of food. In other words, ancient food wisdom provides guidelines for 1) biological (what to eat for physical health), 2) psychological (how food affects feelings), 3) spiritual (the life-giving meaning in meals), 4) and social (dining with others) nourishment: ergo, Whole Person Integrative Eating.

Here’s how the six cohesive guidelines look from the perspective of the four facets:

BIOLOGICAL NUTRITION

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