Food for Thought

Jeanne Benink explores the ways we develop a taste for different kinds of love.

Many times when we have themed issues for the magazine we get tunnel vision on what stories need covering, or at least I do. I asked my editor if I could stretch the boundaries of my usual topics this month to touch on something that I think we could all hear a little more of—loving yourself.

We have just come thru the holidays, and for some lucky people it truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Especially if you have someone to love who loves you back. Not everyone does. Some stay single by choice and some not, but either way I suppose it doesn’t matter. We live in a society that drowns us in the message that two are better than one. Perhaps for a lot of people that’s true, but it doesn’t hold water for everyone. I’ve had marvelous, profound experiences as a single person and also as a married person. My point is to not let society (or Instagram) mislead you as you develop your own markers for a well-lived life. Go out there and find what makes you happy and roll around in it. Let it seep into your pores. Whether it comes from volunteering or starting an ant farm, if that’s what takes you to your happy place, then get out there and do it.

Along those same lines (brace yourselves, as the chef in me is creeping out now), self-love also manifests itself in how we care for ourselves from a physical perspective. I’ve noticed over the years that a largely overlooked piece of the self-love pie is health. When you’re as healthy as you can be, it feels as though when crises arrive they can be more adeptly handled. I know in my own case, if I’m not feeling well, the smallest molehill of an issue (like being out of tea for example) feels catastrophic.

My point is this—give the machine what it needs to work at optimum levels. Here’s my two cents: Eat really well, as well as your pocketbook will allow. Rest—try to get the eight hours of restorative sleep that our bodies need to rebuild on a cellular level. Play—find any reason to romp and frolic! Play should not end after childhood. Taking your sister ice skating is playing, so is playing a board game with friends. Exercise. Quit smoking. Stay in tune with your mental health—I can’t stress this one enough. Most of us will at least battle depression over the course of our lives and may need to seek help to get through it. Tell a friend, your family or your spouse what you’re feeling. Get help and stay on your meds if your physician feels you need them. Cut yourself mental slack when you should. What do I mean by this? I don’t mean to give yourself permission to not get up and go to work every day. I do mean to end the negative self-talk of the mind and be as patient and supportive of yourself as you would of your spouse or best friend.

In short, work on learning to love whoever you are in this moment. Married or not, short or tall, thin or heavy, young or old, love yourself wherever you’re at on this delicious journey of life. We may never check off everything on our honey-do lists of self-improvement (the Buddha might, but we’re not the Buddha), but living serenely with outstanding list items sounds peaceful enough, right? Right.


Jeanne Benink is a Madison chef and owner of Simply Served Personal Chef Service. Friends call her the soup guru becasue of her passion for the soups of the world. You can find at simplyservedpersonalchef.com.