Sometimes we just don’t pay any attention to what we are putting in our bodies, or even worse, we see food as the enemy. We don’t know about you, but we feel as though making good food choices has become increasingly difficult. There is so much information out there about diet and nutrition. Every week there is a new diet fad or superfood on the market. One week eggs are good for you the next they are the Devil’s spawn. The food industry, and advertising in general, also spreads misinformation. They tell us that we should be eating low-fat products (NO! they are laden with sugar), or that their latest product will make us skinnier/healthier/happier! All these factors can engender a sense of fear and trepidation when you sit down to eat. Eating a certain food can lead to internal conflict, shame, and regret based on what you believe about that food. It is no surprise then, that food is a charged topic. This is because how we view and relate to food has a lot to do with how we view and relate to ourselves. Constantly fretting about what to eat, how much to eat etc can create stress, and we can all do with less stress. Just on stress, let’s look a little deeper into the gut...
The Gut-Brain Connection
Did you know that your gut is your second brain? It does far more than just digest and excrete. The gut’s “brain” is known as the enteric nervous system, its millions of neurons transmit important information through the body and send status updates to the brain. Signals from the brain, such as, the aforementioned stress, and anxiety, can have dramatic effects on how well digestion works. The brain also receives chemical messages from the gut, which can actually affect our mood and emotions. The gut is also an integral part of our immune system, in fact, about 60-70% of our immune system lives in there, indentifying, toxins, viruses and microbes and then excreting them. The gut is important to our overall health and mood, so it stands to reason that we should care about what we put into it... it is time to make friends with our food.
Get Interested in Food
Visit farms, farmer’s markets, local food producers, find out where your food comes from and what is in season. Make gathering, preparing and cooking your food an adventure. Sometimes sharing your food, or cooking for someone special can help this process. Get colourful; include lots of colours and textures on your plate to make eating more interesting. Meal times should be joyful, we suggest that you pick a healthy food that you like and build a meal around that. Appreciate food for the nourishment it will give your body.
Engage in Mindful Eating
Mindfulness is “the practice of being in the moment and deliberately noticing every sensory experience, while also separating direct experience, thoughts and feelings from judgments about them,” says Melanie Greenberg, PhD. Too often we are eating at our desks, whilst watching TV or out of boredom. Eating mindfully has been shown to help reduce anxious thoughts about food and your body. It can also assist you in losing weight (huzzah!). It takes a little effort to eat mindfully if you are used to eating on the go, we have listed a few tips below to help you on your way:
- Create a space especially for eating, or at the VERY least step away from your place of work/desk into a quieter area.
- Turn off all distractions – yes this means the PC, the tablet and the phone.
- Eat in silence.
- Cut your food into small pieces and put down the fork/spoon in-between bites; chew thoughtfully.
- Take notice of everything about your food, the colour, the aroma, the taste and texture.
- Thank your food, be grateful for the nourishment it is about to give to you.
- Notice your feelings and thoughts as you eat (you might like to keep a diary).
Accept Your Body
As we said before, how you relate to food = how you relate to yourself...it’s time to love the skin you are in! Your body is an amazing piece of machinery, at any one time it is fighting infection, analysing the environment, breathing, moving and digesting. Here’s a fun fact, if the human brain were a computer, it could perform 38 thousand-trillion operations per second. So say it with me: ‘My body is AMAZING!’ It is the only place you have to live, so look at it with new eyes and appreciation. Love the curves, the jutty, sticky out bits, the cellulite, the hair, the blemishes...warts and all, this body sustains you. When you love your body more, you will start to care about what you put into it.
Don’t Deprive Yourself
When we try to change our eating habits we quite often fail because we jump into it boots and all, denying ourselves anything we deem as ‘bad’. We need to enjoy the food we love, so don’t deny yourself a treat but don’t go overboard. If you have a craving for ice-cream, don’t whip out and buy 2 litres, go out and buy and single serve and eat it mindfully. If we deprive ourselves we might win the immediate battle, but we eventually lose the war and binge. However, if you do happen to have a binge on your ice-cream/chocolate/chips, then it is not the end of the world. Try to recognise what triggers lead to a craving, it could be that you are hurt angry or depressed, or you could just be hungry. Whatever the case, becoming aware of what leads you to eat certain foods, can help you regulate what and how much you eat.
We have avoided talking about exactly what to eat in this blog; we focused on how to eat. Once you are more aware of how you eat, you begin notice what you eat. When you are noticing what you eat, you become aware of how that food makes you feel after it’s eaten. The only way to have a healthy relationship with our bodies and food is to accept where we are at in the present moment. Okay okay, so we can’t leave you without a little guidance on what to eat. Here are two quotes that we think sum up what types of food should go into the body.
- 'Never eat anything your great-grandmother would not have recognised'.
- 'Don’t eat any food product that has a TV commercial!'
Western Wellness Team
(Your friendly neighbourhood yogis)