Some devotees are very conscious about their diet. Some have a million tips on proper combination of the doshas in their food (ayurvedic bodily humors), some are more into western nutrition and even supplement their diet with vitamins as pills. I, somehow, do not care about any of that, except in the most basic form, ie following the menu that is usually served in our temples.
While I agree with the need for the proper body maintenance my line where it becomes necessary to mess with food intake is rather far away. I figure that Raghunatha Dasa Goswami ate rice that was passed on even by the cows and he was never chastised for not having balanced meals. The traditional practice of madhukari, collecting little bits and pieces of this and that, whatever people give, and eating it right away, doesn’t lend itself to obsessing with diet either. Sanatana Goswami maintained himself on unsalted chapaties, got rebuked for that by his Deity, but the complaint was about the taste, not about the lack of vitamins or vegetables.
Consequently, I got blamed a lot for eating what is deemed to be unhealthy. It wasn’t a big deal until very recently, I just followed people’s advice because one benefit of not being strict with a diet is that you can eat whatever people tell you just to get them off your back. Did it improve my health? I don’t know, there’s no one to watch ALL of my meals so any impact would have been limited anyway.
A short while ago, however, I noticed some strange emotions connected with my food intake. I consider them to be signs of purification – they were always there but I didn’t notice them, and now, by Krishna’s grace, I’m more aware of my situation.
First is unhealthy anticipation I feel when putting food into a microwave for reheating. I know that as devotees we should not store prasadam for later consumption but it happens, I can’t cook every day for every meal, leftovers go into the fridge and get reheated. Is it unhealthy? Probably, but what I didn’t like about it is the anticipation of consuming comfort food, which is what reheating feels like – you don’t cook, you don’t offer it to Krishna, you just take a box from a fridge and in two minutes you can stuff yourself to your satisfaction.
This is sense enjoyment pure and simple, muttering sharira abidya jal under your breath doesn’t make it any more spiritual. I could, in theory, consume this prasadam with proper consciousness but the reality is that I don’t, I just devour it and I like that this enjoyment is so easily available.
I caught this feeling very clearly only once but now I remember it every time I open microwave’s door. It didn’t change my habits yet but it reminds me of keeping my gluttony in check, and this is what I consider a real healthy eating habit.
Then I started noticing increased sensitivity towards other people’s suggestions. Sometimes, just as I reach for a refill, someone would say “enough” and it would immediately kill my mood. Sometimes I ask for several preparations at once and someone would say: “You already have that, why do you want this other thing, too?” There’s never a shortage of health-minded Nazis in my household and these things happen way more often than I expect them to.
Usually I just complied, as I said earlier, but lately I’ve been noticing how resentment rises in my heart as soon as my cravings are checked this way. I haven’t done anything about it yet and no one has noticed anything but now I’m very aware of the possibility of being shutdown on any request for food. Freely stuffing myself was never a problem but now I’m very conscious about it, and this is what I consider a real healthy eating habit, too.
Maybe it’s the mercy of the prasadam – it teaches us to be very mindful about what and how we eat and it teaches us to control urges of our tongues. I hope it is, and I want more of it. I want weaknesses like this exposed and dealt with, and not only in consuming food but in all other areas of my life, too.
This needs more observation and this awareness needs to mature and lead to some actual changes in the way I eat but that is what I’ve got so far. At least it’s a good start.