While everyone begins their holiday diets, or begin thinking about it come Thanksgiving, I have been doing a lot of thought on mindful eating. I have put together a list in the hopes of giving you some insight on my own experience and to steer you away from dieting all together. Yes, you read that right, my advice is NO DIETING!!! While some of you are jumping for joy, others are calling me crazy, however I tell you no lies. Here is my advice for you on eating for Health & Wellness. No.1) Start a Meditation Practice
"But this has nothing to do with eating", I can hear you say! Actually, it can lead to a deeper and more meaningful eating experience. When you meditate the neurons in your brain begin to act differently, thus changing your thoughts and actions to become wiser with more intention. Once this has happened you will notice your eating habits begin to change. For instance, you might begin to notice after meditating that you eat salty foods when you feel stressed. You might notice also that when you are feeling sensitive or sad you eat a lot of sweets. Once you have meditated for a while you can start to curb that behavior and choose to actively avoid sweets and salt and rather go to a yoga class or walk your dog once these emotions begin to arise within you. When you begin to listen to the body on a deep cellular level, your habits begin to change slowly to become more mindful of your actions. For myself this was a gradual process but so powerful that I now eat a solely plant based diet as a result of my changed behavior. I no longer eat junk food, have cut out processed foods and sugar by 90%, and eat 2 raw meals a day. As a result I feel healthier and more clear, focused, and strong. Notice how I am not on a diet though, because I notice that when I force myself to do something I end up stressing not just my mind out but also my body. Instead I make decisions day by day to think healthy and I am very thoughtful of my choices, but I never force myself to do anything. This ends up giving me full power over my physical and mental health which is ultimately what it is all about.
No.2) Eat More Fresh Food
This goes right into nutritional education, and you are definitely encouraged to do your own research on this, but eating fresh means you are eating wholesome nutrients for maximum health. You can gradually start increasing your daily fresh food intake, such as salads with little to no dressing, whole fruits and veggies like apples or carrots, and a variety of juices and smoothies. You can eat fruits for breakfast, a veggie plate and Juice for lunch, or a large fresh salad for dinner. While I am not suggesting you get on a raw only diet, what I am advising is for you to introduce as much raw and fresh ingredients into your day as possible, the more organic the better. The great thing about this is you can customize it to your daily schedule. If you want to save money, buy seasonal and from the farmers market. You can eat whole fruits and veggies as snacks, you can create fresh juices, or you can blend up some smoothies. There are thousands of fresh and raw recipes online and from books to help you get creative. Try this out for a month and notice how you feel, integrate it into your journaling and mindful practice. When you buy and eat food, notice why you're buying it and if you are in a particular mood. This practice can substantially effect your health in positive ways.
No.3) Read The Ingredients List
This is a great practice for anyone to do, especially children. Knowing what ingredients are going into your body is essential to your wellness. It can seem overwhelming at first if this is not a practice you have ever partaken in, but over time it becomes like second nature. When buying packaged food, always look to see what it was made out of, then scan the nutrition box for things like calories and sugar. What I usually scan for are grams of sugar, preservatives, and dairy content. A general rule that I, and most people have, is if you cant pronounce it then don't eat it! However I take it a step further and say if I don't know what it is then I don't eat, meaning if the ingredient is so far from anything I know then I stay away from it. When you make a choice to read your ingredients you are actively partaking in your wellness and health education by default. You know exactly what you are eating and can make choices on what you continue to eat and what you can leave behind on the shelf. I began this practice several years ago as a way to become more mindful of my choices, and it has transformed my eating completely! I am not obsessive about it though, and that can become tempting if you let it. Again, this is a practice in mindfulness not obsession and negative behavior. If you become too obsessed about your food then you begin to cross over into eating disorder territory, which is very unhealthy. Be sure not to put pressure on yourself and push yourself into any habit that is not serving your highest self. The moment you find yourself upset about food is the moment you should take a step back and give yourself a break. No one is perfect and you shouldn't try to be. If you eat some junk food and a pastry its not the end of the world, its simply a choice.
Let yourself eat to live, don't live to eat!
Finally, Forget Body Image. In today's society we are taught that the way we look is more important than health and wellness. Just because someone is skinny doesn't mean they are healthy, and the same is true for the opposite. When I was younger I modeled and I looked very skinny but ate fast food, chips and soda, and candy on a daily basis. I looked healthy, by society standards, on the outside but was extremely unhealthy on the inside. Most importantly I was very unhealthy mentally, my mood was very imbalanced and I abused alcohol to control my depression and anxiety. On the flip side I now know people who aren't skinny, by some peoples perspective, but eat incredibly healthy food and keep their bodies active and fit, proving that you should not judge a book by its cover. Forget body image and simply focus on healthy habits. This can radically change your outlook on life and also help you to think more lovingly of yourself. Love is what this practice is all about!