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.