Susan Teton Campbell has experienced quite a ride as she has sought answers to food-related health issues that plague millions of Americans, and now she offers those answers and loads of practical and inspirational advice in the pages of her new book Eating as a Spiritual Practice: Discover Your Purpose While Nourishing Your Body, Mind, and Soul.
Think of Eating as a Spiritual Practice as a two-for-one deal. First, you get the incredible story of Susan’s life journey, and then you get a plethora of delicious and healthy recipes. But perhaps most importantly, mixed throughout those two sections is tons of good advice and eye-opening information about the value of proper nutrition and the dangers of processed and junk foods.
Susan’s journey to becoming focused on what we eat really began when she realized her son’s body had an intolerance to sugar and how, despite her best efforts, when that got out of control, it also left him open to addiction to far worse substances. Susan set out on a lifelong mission to discover how to reverse her son’s health issues, and in the process, she became aware of the severe malnutrition so many of us experience because of the packaged, processed foods we eat.
Rather than just read about nutrition and change her and her son’s diets, Susan got heavily involved in revolutionizing people’s relationships to food. She participated in retreats and spiritual organizations that believed in cultivating both the body and the soul. One organization she became involved with was EarthSave International, founded by John Robbins, the author of Diet for a New America. Part of her involvement with this group was heading up a program to try to get healthier food served in schools. Soon Susan was visiting principals and making them lunches, and she was discovering the café-style lunch menus in our school districts practice the exact opposite of the good nutrition the schools’ health classes preach.
Susan also bares her soul in these pages as she discusses her own many efforts to eat right and overcome temptation, and hardest of all, how she learned to set boundaries and let go with her son, Aaron, when he refused to play by the rules or do what was best for him, but instead spiraled down into years of addiction. Ultimately, the journey made Susan stronger because her son provided lessons she desperately needed to learn about herself and his situation fueled her motivation to help others. At one point, Susan describes how she found herself judging people for what they ate, and then she came to a deep realization:
“From that moment on, my work became sharing, rather than having an agenda that required others to change. I had learned with Aaron that I could not change him, nor did having an agenda to do so empower him or myself. So a new me evolved-one that would simply share what I knew to be true for me. The profundity of this shift and how much lighter I felt are beyond my capacity to put into words, but they changed me, softened me.”
Susan went on to teach cooking classes and constantly got requests to write a cookbook, but she didn’t want to write just a cookbook-she wanted to share her philosophy and deep understanding about our relationship to food and its very sacredness. The result: Eating as a Spiritual Practice, a book that does not try to sell us on a specific diet, or tell us we need to pray over our food. Instead, it’s a book filled with common sense, a back-to-the-basics approach, and a reminder to think about what we are putting into our mouths and the effects it will have on our bodies. As Susan states in the book’s introduction:
“[Y]ou will be inspired to look at food, your body, your life, and the Earth in a new light-a light full of purpose, gratitude, and promise. Why? Because it is absolutely vital that we all become a part of creating a just and sustainable food system for ourselves, our children, and the state of our air, water, and soil. The deeper motivation, which is alive in me and many others I know, is, at its core, spiritual. Perhaps, like me, you are a spiritual seeker with a dietary practice that stretches far beyond the table.”
Susan makes it clear that we can no longer eat healthy food as part of a temporary diet or merely to lose weight. It must become a part of our daily practice just like exercising or brushing our teeth. It must be integrated as a daily discipline in our lives that is “fueled by love and respect.”
Instead of counting calories or trying to reduce our portions, we need to focus on making nurturing choices that not only heal and maintain our bodies but also nourish our spirits. Our body and soul’s abilities to function to their fullest are deeply tied to what we eat, and it’s time for us to pay attention to that connection and do everything we can to nourish all aspects of ourselves. Susan has learned how to do that, and in these pages, she’ll help you learn to do the same.