The Health Benefits of Nutrition, Nourishment and Mindful Eating

 
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Over the last couple of posts I’ve covered some less obvious areas of wellness within the eight essential areas of wellness for vitality. The first two included encouraging examination of your relationships in order to improve and grow in your support systems. Have you been considering how you can grow your social support network and working on strengthening your close core relationships? If you have, have you noticed an impact on your overall wellbeing? Now that those elements have been discussed, I’ll return to a more fundamental foundational element of wellness and one of my favorites to talk about: Nutrition!

When your body is well nourished through nutrient dense foods it functions optimally. Nutrition is one of the most impactful ways to improve your vitality and wellness. However, if you are stressed, anxious, lonely, hiding your true self and unsatisfied, the food you eat, even if it is the healthiest in the world, you will not be able to receive its full benefits within your body. Deepak Chopra says, “You can feed the healthiest food to stressed out person and they will only make poison of it.” When our bodies are in a state of stress, it is not engaging in the ability to properly digest. The autonomic nervous system is comprised of the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) and the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). When we are stressed, anxious and dissatisfied with life, the body does not divert the same level of energy to digestion. In order to improve your nourishment received from the nutrients your food contains, it will be helpful to address how you cope with the stress in your life.

This is an element of nutrition and vitality that is essential, that you not only eat well, but that you feel well as you are eating. These are my (very) general nutrition recommendations:

-       Eat your vegetables and fruits
-       Have more than 50% of each of your meals be comprised of colorful veggies and fruits
-       Eat food that is unprocessed—or at least minimally processed
-       Make sure you can pronounce all of the ingredients on the ingredients list on the processed foods that you do eat
-       If you can, choose organic
-       Drink plenty of filtered water
-       Minimize/reduce your sugar consumption (approximately 24 grams added sugar daily for women and 36 grams added daily sugar for men)
-       Keep alcohol and caffeine to a reasonable minimum, unless they are a problem for you, in which case eliminate them all together
-       Take a high-quality multivitamin or other supplements that will support any areas of possible deficiencies in your diet

So that’s a very basic place to begin with nutrition. They are simple but not necessarily easy, just like everything else that comes to taking care of yourself.

It is not only about what we eat when it comes to being properly nourished, but also about how we eat it. I am using this opportunity to talk about the importance of nutrient density as it’s related to vitality and overall wellness but I want to also address the patterns of stress and stress eating, so I will interject the importance of mindfulness and mindful eating here as well.

If you feel as though you eat healthfully and yet still feel a little crummy, you most likely want to take a look at your stress levels. If there are emotions you have not addressed and they are lingering internally, this can cause a low level of stress much of the time. To address how you eat, let’s take a look at mindful eating. Here are the how-to’s of mindful eating:

-       Begin by engaging your senses (pay attention to what your food looks like, smells like, tastes like)
-       Have a space free from distractions (no social media, internet, TV—this allows you pay attention to how your food makes you feel)
-       Take small bites
-       Chew thoroughly before taking another bite
-       When you are eating, just eat
-       Place utensils/food down between bites
-       Check in with your body to notice hunger/full sensations
- Notice the impact that certain foods have on your mind, body, energy and mood
-       IF you catch yourself judging your food (thoughts such as: too many calories, this food is good, this food is bad…) remind yourself that it is food, just food

When you eat in this way, you create a positive environment for your food to be enjoyed. Your body can properly assimilate the nutrients your food provides for you. You can also notice the impact your food choices have on your mind, body and spirit. As you continue to grow in your practice of nourishing yourself through high-quality, nutrient-dense foods, pay as much attention to the practice of eating itself. Notice the impact on your overall wellness and vitality. As you integrate these practices for your mind and your body you will begin to feel the positive effects of being well nourished in all areas of your life.

Spring Cleaning for Mind and Body

Wow, spring is finally here, and whether or not the weather has gotten the memo that winter is over, I am so ready for this new season. With the extended sunlight, do you feel a little energy building? With this renewed energy do you spend time spring cleaning your house, closets and clearing out old clutter? If you have a yard, do you spend time clearing away old leaves and brush and begin to prepare the soil for new bulbs, flowers and greenery? Most people gain momentum during the spring season to clean and clear their physical environments, which is great, but have you considered spending time to spring clean in mind, body and spirit?

 
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Whether it’s your physical environment or your physical body, residue builds and clutter stacks up higher and higher. Emotional clutter needs time to cleanse and clear just like the clutter and dust bunnies in your physical space. When you spend time cleansing and clearing in mind, body and spirit, you create the needed space to grow, to expand, to evolve—to plant new seeds within your heart and mind.

Here are some useful tools you can integrate to help clear away the clutter of physical and emotional residue that may be lingering on from the cold, grey winter.

  1. Journaling

Let’s start with mental clearing. I find one of the most useful and accessible tools for mental and emotional release is journaling. You might prefer to read on and then come back to these prompts, but if you know you may put it off and never do it, take a moment right now to get out your journal, a notebook or something else to write on and a writing utensil and complete these prompts right now!

Spend time pondering the following self-reflection prompts to help clear your mind of any residual clutter from the seemingly never-ending winter. Letting go and clearing any lingering emotional discomfort will allow you to create room for mental and emotional space for what will serve you moving forward. Without the space to create what you want you will remain stuck in what you already know. Self-reflection is one of the most powerful ways to motivate yourself and create a new, healthy mindset towards the change you desire.

·      What stands in the way of living my most healthy life?

·      What roadblocks are currently in the way of living my best life and being the version of myself—and how can I begin to address each roadblock?

·      What would my life look like if I were being guided by my desire to make my vision my reality?

·      What difficult circumstances did I have to manage this winter?

·      What residual emotions from the winter do I need to release, to let go of, once and for all and how can I do this in a healthy, productive manner?

·      What do I need to let go of in order to move forward with more peace of mind on a daily basis?

2. Breathing

The second tool you can you use to clear your body and the mind is your breath. (If you missed my recent blog about the power of your breath, you can catch it here!) A form of breathing that will cleanse and clear your mind and body is called the bellow’s breath. It is a stimulating breathing practice, so it’s ideal to practice it in the early to mid-part of the day, not in the evenings. It’s always best to practice with the support of an instructor if it is brand new for you. (This particular breath is not suited for anyone who’s had recent abdominal surgery or who has untreated high blood pressure, anxiety or if you are pregnant.) If you give it a whirl and dislike anything about it, there is no need to do it! Just doing a diaphragmatic breathing practice can help to rid your body of excess stress hormones and your mind of excess stressful thoughts. The second breathing practice described below is a calming, grounding breath that is balancing, clearing and suitable for all.

+Bellow’s breath: Inhale and exhale rapidly through your nose, keeping your mouth closed and relaxed. Each inhale and exhale are equal in duration, but as short as possible. You are “pumping” your navel center and building energy with this breath, creating a cleansing of mind, body and energy. This is a noisy breathing exercise, almost like a dog panting on a warm day. Try for approximately three in-and-out breath cycles per second, and aim for about ten breaths at time to begin. This produces a quick movement of your diaphragm, just like a bellows. Return to your normal breathing rhythm after each cycle. Do not do for more than 15 seconds on your first try as it can cause some dizziness. Again, if it is at all uncomfortable, there is no need to continue. Each time you practice this exercise, you can increase your time by five seconds or so, until you reach a full minute. If done properly, you will feel invigorated, comparable to the heightened awareness you feel after a refreshing workout.

+So-Hum breath: as you inhale, feel your abdomen expand and say “so” in your mind, as you exhale, draw your navel in towards your spine and say “hum” in your mind. Continue for at least one minute, but feel free to go longer. This “so-hum” breath will help to focus your attention and quiet your mind.

3. Nutrition

This last portion is all about spring cleaning for your physical body. One of my favorite ways to do this is adding in more bitter flavors, which is always available with fresh leafy greens! Here’s my favorite green drink recipe that is cleansing, refreshing and I think super delicious!

When you try it, let me know what you think. If you tweak it to make it your own, let me know what changes you find to be delicious, I love trying new variations on old recipes!

Spring Cleaning Green Drink Recipe

Serves 2: because health is best when you share it!

2 peeled cucumbers

½ cup fresh chopped pineapple

2 cups of leafy greens such as spinach, kale, chard, dandelion greens chopped

1-2 stalks of celery diced

1 inch of fresh peeled ginger root chopped

1 tablespoon hemp hearts

juice of half of a lime

½ cup filtered water or coconut water, may need more to blend to desired consistency

Blend all ingredients together and add more or less of your favorites to taste

ENJOY!!

When you try these cleansing practices, let me know how they work for you! Know that you are clearing mental and emotional space to move forward, building energy to feel well, live well and be well.

I Just Discovered I'm An Emotional Eater, Now What?

 
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Have you tried every single crazy diet and dietary theory, (like keto-paleo-vegan) every exercise program, every supplement and pill or any other random thing that offers a promise of losing weight? Did you have some success initially only to regain the weight? Chances are, you might be an emotional eater. If this seems to resonate with you and yet you want to stop reading, I don’t blame you! This can be tough to acknowledge because food has been a consistent emotional suppressant and stress management system for you. Just having this realization in and of itself can be super scary. It’s even scarier to know where to begin to change this most likely deeply entrenched habit. If you feel overwhelmed by taking the steps to begin to do something about it, you are definitely not alone. 

Emotional eating is a major struggle for tens of thousands of people. The diet industry preys on people who are desperate to lose weight and makes their specific diet plan seem easy, healthy and like it’s the only way. They often make us feel as though we don’t have the discipline to do it alone, so we need their plan to lose weight and then equate the feeling or experience of “being thin” to happiness. Restricting food, not eating enough calories and possibly not receiving enough valuable nutrients that your body needs to function effectively sets you up for “cheat days” binge eating, being mentally and emotionally preoccupied by food obsessions, low energy and low motivation. While all of this is reason alone to question diets, their promises and systems—no matter what they promise and/or deliver—none of them address the root cause of weight gain in the first place: emotional eating.

If you have been an emotional eater for a long time, you may have begun to see your own patterns and how there is something missing. If you are just beginning to acknowledge that you are indeed an emotional eater or stress eater, there is good news. This is where you can begin to heal because awareness is the first step. You can start feeling hopeful when you are no longer sinking into a space of avoidance and denial, or spending more money on another book, pill or plan only to be disappointed over and over again. With awareness as the first step, acknowledging that the process is not a quick fix is the second. Reinventing your relationship with food, your emotions and yourself is possible and it requires time, dedication, consistency and effort.

The biggest difference here is that as you begin to work towards healing the root cause of the weight you wish to no longer carry, awareness alone does not cause the weight does not just pour off! Usually the process takes much longer than a crazy crash diet as there are many layers and steps to working through emotions. The work requires developing new ways to manage emotions, developing new routines, thought patterns and alleviating negative cognitions you may experience about yourself that seem to keep you feeling stuck. These negative beliefs may feel like, “I have to be perfect” “I will fail,” “I’ve tried to change before and it didn’t work,” “what’s the point,” “I’m too lazy,” “I’m not good enough,” “my body fights me,” and so on. These negative beliefs often run deep and are perpetuated by thoughts which will significantly impact actions, behaviors and choices. Not to mention that through the healing process it is helpful to address nutritional imbalances within your body, metabolic function, blood sugar balance and body image. It can be overwhelming because it is indeed a ton of work.

Once you make this choice that tackling emotional eating is the change you want, there are two concepts that are essential to come to terms with as you begin. The first is that you need to believe in your ability to create the changes you desire in your life. The second is that you are willing to commit to creating the change you desire. Once you fully integrate these two concepts, you will be well on your way. This is where you can address the challenges, blocks, negative thoughts and feelings. There will be resistance, but that’s ok, through the change process you will build resilience. There will be back-sliding, but that’s ok, there is nothing you will ever create for yourself that is truly meaningful and long-lasting that doesn’t have a learning curve and opportunities to grow into becoming your best self. It all starts with the decision to change, the desire to know and understand your internal emotional world and to befriend your mind and body. Once you create the belief and dedication, you then take it one day at a time.

While the process can be overwhelming and seem like a major task, breaking it down into doable, practical and meaningful steps will begin to propel you forward. As you begin to shift your mindset and work from a space of focusing on what’s going well rather than whether or not you are perfect, you will make progress. As you make progress you will see the internal shifts happening slowly and steadily. When you turn the focus away from losing weight and towards healing your relationship with food, your body and yourself, you will remain motivated to create the lasting change you desire. Often with diets there is a promise of losing weight fast. However, when addressing emotional eating, it will not be a fast journey. This is a steady, action focused journey where you begin to create your own personalized dietary plan. You create the movement in your life that is pleasurable. You create opportunities for self-reflection and emotional awareness to learn and grow. You are in charge of what makes your body feel energized, healthy and vital. You know what’s best and you will develop trust in your body and ability to change—and keep changing.

If this feels new, strange or something you have not considered or if you have known you are an emotional eater for a long time but avoided facing it due to fear or denial, now is the time to step into your personal power. It’s time to reclaim your health and wellness in mind, body and spirit. It is time to begin your personal journey towards making peace with food.

If you find you could benefit from support along the way, reach out, there is no need for you to go through this process all alone. Whether you reach out to me, another coach, therapist or best friend, find your team that will support your growth, change and will encourage you to create a life you love.