Don’t take your body or your food for granted this year.

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On Nutrition

What is gratitude? The word means to be thankful, and it also has connections to the word grace, which many of us have experienced as a blessing or prayer before a meal. But gratitude is more than simply a social nicety — it can also make us feel happier and be healthier. Research suggests practicing gratitude enhances our social relationships and promotes both psychological well-being and physical health, likely because people who feel gratitude tend to be better able to cope with challenges, make progress toward their goals and take good care of themselves.

Being thankful for your food

We are more likely to feel gratitude when we receive something we truly need that takes real effort on the part of the giver. Food certainly meets those standards, yet most of us take the food on our plate for granted. What’s more, when you have the good fortune of always having plenty to eat, you may find yourself at war with food, pulled between overindulgence and self-imposed restriction. This struggle can intensify during the holidays, when you face many foods that might not be aligned with your health and nutrition needs.

Gratitude is one way to make peace with food while enjoying it more. When you take food for granted, it’s easy to slip into mindless eating. When you eat mindlessly, you don’t get full satisfaction from your food, which can lead to overeating. If gratitude has the ability to enhance your feelings of well-being and increase mindfulness, imagine what might happen if you took a moment to express gratitude each time you sat down to eat. Here’s how to start:

• Look at the food on your plate. Give thanks for the fact you have food to eat.

• Then, consider what is pleasing about your meal. The colors? The aroma? Give thanks that you have food you enjoy.

• Finally, acknowledge and express gratitude for everyone and everything who had a role in bringing that food to your plate. The water, sunlight and soil nutrients. The farmers. The animals. The truck drivers. The grocery-store employees. The cook.

Being thankful for your body

Now, consider your body. We tend to focus on what we think is wrong with our body — with how it looks or how it functions. When we feel healthy, we take it for granted, and when we are unwell or our body fails to otherwise perform to our expectations, we feel betrayed. Think about how thankful you feel when you have been sick or injured but are finally on the mend. What if you expressed that kind of gratitude toward your body every day, thanking it for how far it’s taken you in this life? Day after day, year after year, your millions of cells work together without fail to keep you alive and kicking. Fairly miraculous, when you think about it.

Research suggests that we can enhance our feelings of gratitude and improve our well-being with simple exercises. You can use these to thank your body, your food, or anything or anyone else:

• Journaling about what you’re grateful for

• Thinking about or meditating on what you feel grateful for

• Sending someone a letter expressing gratitude

• Practicing saying “thank you” with sincerity

Even if gratitude doesn’t come naturally to you, it can become a habit with practice. Why not resolve to cultivate more gratitude in 2017? I bet you’ll find that your relationship with food, with yourself and with those around you blooms.