My name is Caspar and I love food ! I love eating food but what I love even more is how food connects people ! I love how it’s connected to our brain, our psychology and our emotional well-being.
I have traveled extensively across our beautiful planet and wherever I went food was a connector for experiences, for community, for laughter and conversation. It was always a way to share our humanity.
After a 12 year career producing and directing network television I spent 2003-2004 abroad. Upon my return to the U.S. I settled in Ojai and went back to school to become a therapist; I have always been fascinated by psychosomatics !
I also started my organic, whole foods catering company Consciously Culinary.
My weekdays were spent studying and I would see the principals expressed on the week-ends when I was providing the meals to yoga retreats.
When we think about food and food-related issues we tend to think about it in a few ways. We look at it in terms of quantity: do people have enough or do they go hungry ?
The second way we look at it is in terms of quality. Is it Organic, what do GMO do etc.
Ironically, many of the people we know are the fortunate ones on our planet for whom food is both abundant and of high quality and some are becoming obsessed about what to leave out ! We also see a new eating disorder called “orthorexia nervosa”. “Orthos” is Greek for correct and “rexia” indicates food (think of an-orexia; without food). “Nervosa” means we are talking about an obsessive compulsive disorder. This is a disorder where people are obsessed about what they deem to be correct food.
In one way or another we are searching for what and how to eat !
I became interested in searching for what gives people nourishment ! This is when I created the modality for What Makes You Eat ?
It’s a word we use to describe what food can do for our body but it’s also used to describe what we get from relationships with others, with our family and with ourselves. It can describe joys, pleasures and all things that contribute to our health and well-being and a place of belonging and fullness.
A lack of good, healthy food leads to malnutrition and eventually illness.
In the same way, a lack of good, healthy contact with others can lead to spiritual, emotional and psychological malnutrition which can eventually lead to mental illness.
We know from research that people who are engaged in active social contact with others stay healthy longer, are more mentally alert, deal with less depression and even live longer.
This is one of the many reasons why the work of Meals on Wheels is so valuable ! It provides crucial physical and psychological nourishment !
Food and eating are deeply related to our emotions and psychology and I have come to find that it’s essential to examine this often overlooked connection when addressing food and nourishment.
Have you ever used the term “Comfort Food” ? How about “Emotional Eating” ? Have you ever said “love goes through the stomach” ?
When people fall in love they get butterflies in their stomach. When you’re afraid you get a knot in your stomach and when you are overrun by sudden, extreme fear you may “evacuate your bowels” or as it’s commonly referred to; “sh*t your pants”.
How about when we have a sense about something and we get a “gut feeling” ?
Everywhere around the world you find languaging that ties stomach, gut, digestive function etc. to emotion. We have always been aware of this connection !
Let’s look at this in the language of today: science !
Biological perspective. Emotional Brain.
Neurogastroenterologists are examining processes in the gut that function wholly independent of the central nervous system. They call it “the enteric nervous system” or “intrinsic nervous system”.
The stomach, the intestines etc. can function on their own, separate from the brain or even from the spinal column !
This enteric nervous system also makes use of more than 30 neurotransmitters. Most of which, such as serotonin and dopamine are identical to the ones found in the Central Nervous System.
As a matter of fact; more than 90% of the body’s serotonin lies in the gut, as well as about 50% of the body’s dopamine.
By way of the vagus nerve, the enteric nervous system communicates with the limbic system in the brain.
The limbic system can be looked at as the emotional part of the brain and it also uses these “neurotransmitters of happiness, wellbeing and reward”.
Psychological development. Freud and Erikson.
When we start our learning as an infant this part of the brain is much more active than the neo-cortex, the part of our brain responsible for complex thought.
Sigmund Freud proposed that we develop in stages which he called “the psychosexual stages of development”. (I must make clear that the word “sexual” here refers to anything pleasurable, not necessarily specific to sex. He used this term to refer to how we are drawn to things. Some people might say that we are driven by two motives; love and fear, to move toward or away from something.
In the first stage of our development we are in what is referred to as “the oral stage”, meaning we are attracted to things through oral fixation. In all mammal infants we see that the infant will move toward the mother’s breasts. The child’s behavior is motivated by this oral fixation. This is very logical of course ! After breathing, our next survival concern is to eat and drink.
This is also the same age range that Erik Erikson identified as the time when we develop trust vs. mistrust.
Very logical as well of course; we have to rely on those around us for our survival (including feeding us). How the world and the people around us care for us signals to us how we we can trust our world !
We see the two come together when we look at infants who are being nursed. We see lowered stress response, slower heart-rate, improved immune response etc.
Trust is being built and trust is connected to food.
[In the past I have worked with The Joyful Heart Foundation and we see that when trust is damaged later on in life through child abuse and sexual crimes for instance, eating behavior can become affected as well.] Eating disorders are are in fact psychological problems expressed through eating behavior.
In growing up, parents sometimes reward their child with food while others punish theirs with it. I may have a client in therapy who when they were young and were crying out of sadness would be given a lollipop or other sweets instead of being listened to. As an adult this person gets a strong craving for sweets when they are sad.
An important way of how we learn is through associations; we connect things. Think of the work of Pavlov. He rings a bell and the dogs salivate because the bell ringing always means there’s food coming. The mind perceives the bell and the body reacts !
Do the citrus hypnosis
The mind affects the body and the body affects the mind.
For some this might be a little bit of an unconventional connection to think about but let me give you some examples: exercise releases serotonin, dopamine etc. and these have profound effects on our mind. Consuming alcohol, caffeine, sugar etc. also have clear effects on our minds and moods as well.
The mind affects the body like this: take two people climbing a 100ft vertical wall. One person is an experienced climber while the other has a fear of heights. Both of them are in the same environment but the way they interpret that environment affects their blood pressure, heart rate, dilation of the eyes etc. It also affects their immune functioning, the secretion of hormones and neurotransmitters etc. The emotional and psychological interpretation of the environment has profound biological effects on these individuals !
It is estimated that chronic stress is responsible for or is a contributing factor to 85% of all doctor visits.
In the realm of food and digestion we see that stress has a strong adverse effect on IBS, constipation, acid reflex, allergies etc.
When I ask What Makes You Eat ? , it’s “what nourishes you” I am asking about.
Nourishment is something we can achieve by feeling taken care of, full and complete. We get it by being present; there’s a reason my company is called Consciously Culinary.
When we are conscious of our experience we get a lot more fulfillment out of it.
Unfortunately many of us don’t take the time to sit down and eat any more. We don’t pray or hold space for gratitude before a meal. we eat but are checked out or our attention is on something else like a t.v. As a biological organism we need to breathe, sleep, eat and drink, watching t.v., driving etc. are not primary survival needs. Let’s spend a little more time and attention on the important things !
I hope that I have been able to share with you today that our food and our psychology are deeply connected, that eating is much more than swallowing food.
All around the world births and deaths, weddings and holy days in all religions and cultures are celebrated and commemorated with food. It is hard to imagine any of these without breaking bread !
Spending time together with our food and with each other is a crucial part of our humanity ! It is nourishment on many levels.
Those most vulnerable to malnutrition in our society are often also at a higher risk of emotional and psychological challenges. Spending a little bit of time with people, saying a prayer or holding hands, listening to a memory and sharing a meal feeds hearts and souls as much as mouths and bellies.
I want to celebrate you today for donating to Meals on Wheels and enabling them to this sacred work.
And I want to celebrate all the people of Meals on Wheels for all the meals they deliver and I also want to celebrate them for nourishing human connection, emotional support and psychological wellbeing.
Thank You !
Consciously Culinary ℅ Caspar Poyck P.O. Box 451 Ojai, CA 93024 805.760.7730