Mindfulness, Health and Food
Eating mindfully is about eating consciously, deciding what you will eat and how you will eat with your health in mind. Mindfulness and health can go hand in hand, with a little practice and awareness.
As we get older, it’s very common for many people to put on weight. My observation of this is that many eat without knowledge of what is contributing to the excess weight. It’s also a combination of busy lifestyles and less time to incorporate mindfulness into the day. So incorporating mindfulness, health and food, makes it possible to become more aware of what is going inside to help nourish and nurture from the inside out.
When practicing mindful eating, we are mindfully aware using our presence and being in the moment, eating what is nutritious for ourselves.
When we do our own research and become more aware of the power of food and what it does to our bodies, it makes for a healthier body.
How do you know what is healthy and what isn’t. Well, there’s a lot of different information out there in internet land. Firstly, we have been given the wrong guidelines, which have led to people becoming unhealthier as time rolls on. So with due diligence and growing awareness around foods, it can help to create a more mindful experience of our health and well being.
Let’s start with the macronutrients.
These are carbohydrates, proteins and fats. When we have none of one of these the body responds through poor health.
If we have these in the wrong balance, it also affects our health and leads to major diseases including metabolic disorders, cardiovascular disease, inflammation, and reduced immunity to name a few.
The most effective balance for our health and well being is low carbs, medium protein and high fats. Here’s a list of research that has not only explored this, but also found this to benefit human health:
Foster, G. D. et al., A randomized trial of low Carb diet for obesity. New England Journal of Medicine, 2003.
Samaha, F.F. et al., A low-carbohydrate as compared with a low-fat diet in severe obesity, New England Journal of Medicine, 2003.
Aude, et al., A National Cholesterol Education Program diet vs a diet lower in carbohydrates and higher in protein and monounsaturated fat: a randomized trial, Archives of Internal Medicine, 2004.
Once we know how to identify and break our foods up into macros, we can then work out how to get the balance right. Knowing the right balance will help in learning more about healthful choices and incorporating these choices into your lifestyle.
The right balance – low carb, medium protein, high fats.
When consuming lower carbs, our bodies go into ketosis, and switch from burning carbohydrates to relying on fat which turns into ketones that is used for energy. This in turn helps burn fat, while reducing inflammation in the body. When inflammation has been reduced, the organs can work more effectively.
For example, when sugar is put into the body at a frequent rate, such as daily, and at high levels, the body releases insulin to convert it into energy. Over a prolonged period of time, the body can’t continue to keep up the release of insulin, so it becomes harder for the insulin to do it’s job. This is when Type 2 Diabetes becomes diagnosed, when the insulin in the body can’t reduce sugar levels as a direct result of inflammation.
If we are not aware of how sugar and other foods impact our organs and health, mindless eating practices develop and consequently poor health.
When we eat the right amount of fats, our bodies can function at optimal levels. Did you know that we need fat to survive? Monounsaturated fatty acids, polyunsaturated fatty acids and saturated fats are all healthy choices for our health.
Healthy fats also help reduce portion sizes, which also helps one listen to their fullness signals, particularly when eating mindfully.
A great way to include more healthful options into your diet is to follow some recipe ideas that help take the decisions out of meal planning, using a guide for recipe choices such as this one.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is noticing the chatter going on inside your mind and becoming aware of it without judgement. It is more about being aware of what you are thinking, and less about trying to control it or stop what you’re thinking.
When we judge what we are thinking, we have an emotional response to it, which then creates more internal chatter, usually negative, which then leads to further internal dialogue. And so the cycle continues until we find a way to manage it.
Mindfulness is one way to manage the internal dialogue so we can become more psychologically flexible with the thoughts that go on inside, while being non judgmental which in turn becomes less emotionally upsetting.
Mindfulness isn’t actually meditation, but meditating can help with practicing mindfulness. In particular when learning how to practice mindfulness, you can take a few minutes out of your day, sit or lie down, and become aware of your breathing first, followed by noticing your internal chatter. Instead of judging those thoughts as good or bad, simply be aware of them and be present with them.
How is this linked with food you might ask? Well, very much actually. How many times have you felt guilty for eating something you know isn’t healthy for your body? How many times have you tried to change your eating patterns, and found it challenging, difficult, and down right impossible to stick to? That’s not your fault at all. It’s more than likely because you were following a diet that isn’t sustainable, or didn’t have the right balance of macro nutrients.
How to incorporate mindfulness and health into your life
Become aware of what is healthy for your body. My post about the ketogenic diet is about can help.
Practice mindfulness in your every day activities. Here’s some examples:
- making a cup of tea
- timing of when you sit for a meal
- going for a walk
- washing up or other house work activities
- cooking or creating a meal
- on your way to and from work by car, bus, train, or bike.
If you are still unsure of how to practice mindfulness, there are some apps that can help with this. There are also many mindfulness meditations on youtube.com that you can listen to when you’re ready.
My favorite ones are by Michael Sealey and Jason Stevenson. There are many more, you might like to listen to a range to get a feel for the ones you prefer.
Mindfulness and Health
When practicing mindfulness for your health, think about being in the present moment when you sit down for a meal. Are you thinking about how you didn’t finish that project that was dumped on your desk at 3pm that afternoon, or what you saw on facebook earlier that afternoon.
- Become aware of the smells of the meal, colors on the plate, is it warm or cold.
- What sounds do you notice around you?
- When you sit down to your meal, how does your environment or space look.
- Notice what type of food you’re about to consume, what are the macronutrients included in this meal? Is it something that will nurture your body?
- Listen to your body’s personal hunger signals and eat til full. Eating slowly helps you eat less and prevents over eating.
- Do one thing at a time, focus only on eating instead of being distracted by other activities at meal time
By becoming aware of your eating practices, you can incorporate being mindful throughout the day instead of thinking about tomorrows chores, or what happened yesterday or last week. Instead be fully present in the moment, making consciously aware food choices where you can enjoy each meal.
Incorporating mindfulness and health into your everyday living will allow you to become more aware of your health and listen to your body’s needs while developing a better understanding and awareness of how to follow a healthy lifestyle.
What’s been your experience of mindfulness and health? Has this been something you’ve considered before? Leave your comments below.