Do you ever get the craving to do binge eating for your favorite snack? Do you have a sudden urge to go all down for potato crisps all day and end up buying a ton from the grocery store? Are you familiar with the terms emotional eating or “eating the blues away?” If so, then know that your mental health is intervening in your eating behavior to a significant degree.
You may be eating too much or too little. It might also be the case that you would consume food that is not healthy for you, such as processed food or an empty calorie food. You might also be consuming food that is off the balance when it comes to fulfilling your normal macronutrient requirements. Whatever might be the case, one thing remains a fact: You are not doing the best for your health, and certainly, your mental health may have a role to play in determining your dietary choices and habits.
What is Mindfulness? Mindfulness is the state of mind that is fully aligned with the present – your mind is well-aware of your present condition and focuses well on what you need. That also means that your body and mind are well-connected with each other. Your mind knows what your body requires for optimum function and vice versa. This also applies to hunger. When you are actually hungry, and when your body requires a certain nutrient that it requires to perform a specific function, a mindful you would know it right. This would not be the case if your mind is not well-acknowledged of its own body and is not well-aware of what is going around itself, the present condition.
Mindfulness with Nutrition What we have explained revolves around the principle of mindfulness with nutrition. In technical terms, we refer to it as intuitive eating. So, when we say that you are eating intuitively, instead of going with your urges and thought patterns, you listen to your actual inner eye – the eye of the subconscious that speaks well of your body. It knows what your body needs right at the moment so it can perform at best with no disturbance. Therefore, mindfulness with nutrition is important to help your body figure out the patterns it needs to take in the nutrients it requires to function optimally. However, this only happens when your mind is working at its best and is fully aware of what is going around itself. On the other side, when your brain is distracted or is wound up in negative thoughts, then it is not going to happen.
How Can You Make Your Mind More Aware? The first step, as it is evident, is to make your mind more aware of the present. You can do so by practicing some techniques, for example, breathing techniques, meditation, yoga, visualization, and the list goes on. The idea is to practice and discipline your mind into focusing on the present moment and letting the thoughts flow as they come. Instead of dwelling on them, you are now creating a space where you are just viewing them as random thoughts and focusing on the present moment. This idea works on intuitive eating as well.
Stress Reduction and Mindfulness In this kind of eating, you are disciplining your mind to break unhealthy eating behaviors and patterns. For example, you might have a habit of binge eating cookies all the time when you are stressed. When you are practicing your mind to be more focused, you are training it to be more aware of the present moment instead of the thoughts that are disturbing it. So, when you are stressed, instead of dwelling on the thoughts that further intensify your negative mood, you practice your presence at the moment and then take your mind, shift its energy from the stressful thoughts. So, now you don't have that urge to go for the cookies anymore. You figure out the root cause of binge eating and train your mind to be more mindful. This and a lot of other examples stand there to affirm how we can correct so many disturbed eating behaviors and patterns that do not let us live the life we want.
Emotional Eating, Self-Image Problems, and Mindfulness Let us consider another example. Take the problem of emotional eating, for instance. If you are obese, you might find yourself eating too many fattening burgers or other fast foods on certain days. On consulting with a specialized healthcare professional, you might find that you have a condition called emotional eating. If you dive further into a root cause, you might be able to identify the root cause of emotional eating. It might be the case that on the day when you are prone to binge eating on the pizza in your favorite cafeteria, some fellows of yours in the office might have indirectly pointed at you and criticized you for your inability to lose weight over the months. It might also be the case that you were not able to fit in your favorite jeans like you were once before. So, now you go into the vicious cycle of dismay and sadness that knows no end, and you don't know where to stop.
Problems with body image, as you can see, can give rise to this kind of vicious cycle of unaware, undisciplined eating patterns. A good way to fix this is again to be aware wholly of what your situation is and be mindful enough to let your thoughts go above like the clouds, let them float as they go, and see them go gracefully.
Intuitive Eating – When and How to Listen to the Gut? Intuitive eating comes with a lot of practice and discipline – you actually have to give ears to your gut. A common mistake a lot of people make when doing this type of eating is that they give in to their urges and cravings. This is where they have to take control of their minds and
think with rationality. The more they are rational with their thoughts, the more they are able to identify right from wrong. They need to identify that when they have an urge for something, is it something that their body wants, or is it something that their brain is telling them to do so? Then, they have to further ask themselves what led them to feel that urge? Did something trigger them, or do they want to just feed their body? This kind of rational approach would actually help people decide for the better and see what actually works well for them so they can make better decisions.
Another thing they need to consider is when they are making choices regarding foods, how complex their choices actually are. Our bodies are made for making simple choices between nutrients and foods. This is because of our ancestral history – we do not have the capacity to integrate so many complex ingredients in the form of additives and preservatives when given the history. So, when we think about eating some sausages or other highly processed food, it is less about mindfulness and more about craving. Our bodies are developed for making simpler choices when it comes to food. Listen and observe closely, and you will note that your body would likely urge for fresh ingredients that are close to nature. There are chances that you would be more mindful of eating your greens or some cottage cheese more often that would call for that you need vitamin C or calcium in your body concerning the stage in your life.
Diet or No Diet? Eating through mindfulness is a no-diet approach. You are not restricting yourself with anything. So, instead of going with full FAD diets that are extremely restrictive and cause you to go all hard on yourself, you are taking the friendlier, healthier approach towards your mind and body and are doing what the best for you is. Instead of listening to the outward sources, you are giving voice to your own body, and what can be healthier than giving your body a voice when it comes to making decisions that directly influence its health? It comes down to one thing: Listening to your body at its best. Whatever the choice is, the answer remains fixed: Your body is making the best choices for its health when it is fully mindful. You cannot expect it to make wrong health choices when you have fully reached the level of
mindfulness. So, when you are actually listening to your gut, and you observe yourself to be attracted to foods that are unhealthy for you, know that there is something to be fixed in your mindfulness regime.
Final Word As you can see, the power of mindfulness goes as beyond and powerful as one can imagine – and it applies to a number of facets in life – in nutrition alone, it plays a big role in regulating our dietary choices and dietary behaviors, so we can better manage our nutrition in better ways.