Eating becomes an unconscious habit with our busy 21st century lives. Sometimes, simply eating well isn’t enough for you to be happy and healthy. What you eat is important, but how and why you’re eating are just as essential.
With all the information around - how does one navigate all the opposing views?
a. Stop and think. How do you actually eat your meals?
Mindless eating vs mindful eating
We’ve all experienced this kind of eating before. You’re sitting in front of the TV with a packet of chips or a block of chocolate The next time you look down, the food has all gone – and you have next to no memory of eating it. Or you’re quickly gobbling down a snack before you leave for the day and it’s gone in next to no time.
Did you know that flipping over to a mindful approach to eating can have a variety of benefits. Research shows that mindful eating is associated with reduced stress levels and improvements in mental wellbeing. If weight loss or healthy eating is your goal, studies suggest that mindful eating can lead to improved dietary choices and modest weight loss and reduced digestive issues such as bloating.
b. Why are you eating?
This one is often attributed to kids, but as adults, we’re just as likely to eat out of boredom. Although boredom eating can tie in with other eating patterns like emotional eating, it also can exist on its own. When you feel restless or dissatisfied, such as when you have an uneventful day at work or your partner lets you down in some way, your brain seeks out sensation and excitement. For many of us, food serves this purpose, particularly less healthy choices.
The good news is that eating junk food when you’re bored doesn’t have to be inevitable. Research shows that choosing more exciting healthy options like fresh fruit or raw nuts can be just as satisfying for the bored brain.
The key is to only have these healthy options in your pantry. (Honestly, this makes such a difference! (Speaking from experience here.)
When we experience negative emotions, we’ll look for anything that can soothe us. For many, that means turning to food. This is often food that we were given as children when sick or upset, but it may also just be our favourite foods. Unfortunately, very few will turn to a salad or piece of fruit when emotional. It’s more likely to be foods high in sugar, salt and/or fat such as a packet of biscuits or a pie. What were you given to eat when you were sick as a child? I do remember being given licorice or an ice-block as a child. Luckily for us we lived rurally so there were no lollies or junk food to get from the local dairy.
Again, research has suggested that people who eat emotionally can take action to minimise it’s impact. Exercise, mindful eating and coping strategies for reducing stress can all be beneficial for an emotional eating situation.
c. Other reasons
There are other factors that influence how you eat that can be beneficial or harmful, depending on the circumstances. People who are involved in sports or bodybuilding might take the approach of ‘food as fuel’. While it is fuel for your body, this approach ignores the other influences that food has. Food is not just fuel, it’s also social, cultural and often emotional. Such as always having packets of biscuits or having to provide morning tea at the office.
Eating for wellness and health benefits is often a good approach, except when taken to extremes. Sometimes, an obsession with the health benefits of food can lead to disordered eating and conditions such as orthorexia in vulnerable people.
This is why it’s important to find your balance with food. Many people find that an 80/20 approach is best. 80% of what you eat can be healthy and beneficial for your overall well being. 20% can be more about indulgence. This doesn’t mean you go off and eat 3 slices of bread if you’re Coeliac or intolerant! But it might mean having the occasional gluten-free treat at an event. Of course if you have had a hair test and are avoiding certain foods you have to be mindful of what you ‘indulge’ in.
My 21 Day WholeFood cleanse has been designed to assist you in creating healthy eating habits as well as learning about which foods are best for you. You get guidance about what is a whole food, as well as detoxification, and nutrients that will help you with improving your health and reducing cravings. Read about it here
For more ideas on ‘how to make easy tweaks to your current diet’ click here.
And to find out whether a detox is really worth it from a naturopaths point of view click here.
Eating healthily is only one piece of the puzzle, for more guidance on what is going on with your health book a consultation so I can help you get to the bottom of your health issues.