Conscious Eating: A natural way to bring balance back to our bodies.
In our fast-developing world, we became accustomed to run away from ourselves by constantly keeping ourselves busy. As a result, we have disconnected from the wisdom of our unique body composition. We became more attuned to what the media and the diet industry are telling us, and zoomed out from what our bodies are telling us. As part of this disconnection, our bodies lost their unique and natural ability to find the balance that they are also seeking. We disempower ourselves even further by labelling every unwanted or inconvenient behaviors, such as unwanted eating habits.
The commonly increasing struggle throughout the globe today, is labelled as ‘emotional eating’.
Does that mean that we have all become emotionally unintelligent individuals reflecting through our eating habits? or have we lost our will power? It sounds logically far from the real truth, especially knowing that the vast majority of us do have the will and emotional management of working 24/7 if required to accomplish a business project for instance. This means that the emotional intelligence and will power are there. They’re – however – just directed in a different channel.
With an exaggerated social pressure, unrealistic expectations, brand marketing influences, and messages from the diet and food industry leading to ‘wrong’ food choices, we have built a toxic love-hate relationship with food, led by guilt and confusion, drifting us apart from the true purpose of eating. Most of the time, our body just doesn’t know if it should treat food as an intruder or as a nutrient, just because we constantly have conflicting messages about eating.
My hope in this article is to help you gain different views on eating, and – instead of diminishing hunger – use a way to tune into our emotions and trust the wisdom of our own unique bodies. Our bodies are seeking balance as much as we are.
Let’s start from the quick fixes based on the ‘calorie-in, calorie-out’ formula, and physical image pressure that have reshaped generations of beliefs of what an ideal body and eating habits should look like. Apart from the stress that dieting imposes on our mind and body, diet food leaves the body starving for more food, due to the lack of nutrients our body needs to naturally balance itself. Through this process, the mind becomes hyper focused on food, and we reach out for the quickest ‘pick me up foods’ which are salty or sweet for a quick energy boost.
Then we have the inherited beliefs which do not suit our lifestyle today but which we carry along from generation to generation. One common example is ‘finish your plate’, which initially is a common-sense mindful way of eating; but does it still apply today when the portion sizes have exploded? Something to think about.
We also have the blue prints, which most of us are unconscious about, such as the search for a sense of safety through sweet foods or familiarity, like the silky feel of milk from when we were a baby through ice cream craving for example. Or the sweet reward imprints for getting a cookie or cake for doing something good, or to celebrate!
Not to forget how difficult it is not to get confused on what to eat when we are bombarded with food messages and product placements everywhere we go, with food chains, promotions and ads, or even when we stay in! through TV, social media, and so on.
To start a conscious attitude towards eating, we need to revisit our belief ‘files’ in our subconscious ‘folder’, starting from the idea that a lettuce and cucumber salad is a healthy way of eating, or that you need to starve yourself and exercise more.
It is only when we shed off the guilt feeling and start repairing our relationship with ourselves, that we become conscious eaters.
Guideline to Mindful or Conscious Eating:
- Always think of the real purpose of eating, which is meant to be enjoyable while feeding your body and brain with nutrients;
- Around 70% of our body is made up of water, so make sure you stay hydrated. For women, I advise 3 liters, and for men, 4 liters approximately a day, depending on the season and level of activity. Water helps the body flush out toxins;
- There is a reason why they say ‘chew your food well’. Practice mindful eating, by sitting at the table, without the phone or TV distraction. Take small bites and take your time to enjoy your meal. 30-40% of digestion starts in the brain;
- Eliminate or reduce all processed foods such as packaged sausages, turkey ham, canned beef, ready-made packaged food, instant noodles, and start eating and cooking real food, whole food;
- Eat your rainbow: 5 to 7 different fruits or vegetables a day (each being a serving size/a cup);
- Exercise or walk. Try to find an exercise that suits you the best and not what is in trend. Exercise stimulates the release of cortisol, which helps the body lay off fat, control blood sugar levels, and reduce inflammation;
- Sleep your needed hours. Lack of sleep affects your weight gain, increases cortisol – which increases inflammation and stress, reduces Leptin – which mimics starvation and hunger while increasing Gherkin, the hunger hormone – and activates the reward system (craving/addiction), amongst other associated negative health issues;
- Deconstruct your cravings: understand what food you’re attracted to and why, when and where? Is it during late afternoon? If so, have you had proper nutritive meals during the day? Have you – maybe – burned more energy than expected and now you need to refuel with the right food? Or are you simply missing some hugs and comfort?
- At the beginning, you might find difficulties to control the size of your portions, so focus on the quality of your foods. Eat meals that come from whole foods, and incorporate raw vegetables and fruits during the first half of the day (breakfast and lunch). The quality of food affects our hormones and neurotransmitters;
- Consume more healthy fats, Omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants, such as avocados, nuts and olive oil, which help decrease inflammation and protect tissue from inflammation damage. Also, your brain is composed of 60% of fat, and if you don’t feed it the healthy fat, it will eat itself. It may seem dramatic, but beyond 72 hours, the body cannibalizes itself;
- Increase sweet vegetables – such as sweet potatoes – to reduce sweet cravings;
- Experiment with different alternatives of proteins, such as pulses (lentils, chickpeas and beans);
- Work through crowding out bad food and not just by eliminating. Replace them – one by one – with good foods; allow time intervals for the body to get used to every new adjustment;
- Keep a weekly food diary, and – ideally – a pre-planned weekly meal schedule (optional, not a must) just to monitor if you are including a variety of ingredients in your diet;
- Always question what you are being told. Read labels, and question guidelines. What you need to watch out for in reading labels are: anything starting with E, high fructose corn syrup, artificial coloring & flavoring, artificial sweeteners, MSG, and GMO;
- A big chunk of work would be on your mindset.We need to shed off the blue prints and inherited beliefs or habits that do not serve our current lifestyle.
Speak about what you want in the present tense ‘I like eating nourishing food that keep my weight healthy’.
By, Danielle Daou, Nutrition & Lifestyle Expert.
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