What is the last thing you ate?
If you’re like many people it may take you a minute to remember. Maybe it was something quick in the car while driving the kids to practice? Or a bagel and a coffee from a drive through window? Was it eaten at your desk? Or was it a sit down meal, with family or friends, eating, talking, laughing and sharing the trials and tribulations of the day.
Many of us find ourselves mindlessly eating while focussed on other things. How can we take pleasure and nourishment from food we barely remember eating? The short answer is, we can’t.
Time and time again, throughout “Self-Care month” here at Healthoholics, you’ve heard us discuss awareness. Being mindful while eating is an important step towards optimal wellness, too.
Why Do We Eat?
When asked why they eat, people respond with a variety of answers:
- we need food for energy
- because I’m hungry
- in response to a trigger (sight, smell, advertising)
- to curb other feelings (stress, sadness, boredom, low self-esteem)
- it’s a habit
- to reward myself for something
- because I LOVE food
- social interactions often centre around food
At the end of the day, food is nourishment. It is the fuel that runs each and every bodily function from thoughts, to movement, to every breath we take. It is a fundamental human necessity for survival.
Food can nourish not only our bodies, but also our minds and souls (when consumed in the right environment).
Including food in your self-care plan means ensuring that the foods you are consuming are serving your best interests. Whether that means skilfully choosing foods to help heal or support a recent diagnosis, to ensure you have the energy needed for a good workout, to calm your mind after a long day (think herbal tea), or partaking in something to feed your soul (like savouring a square of high-quality dark chocolate) – food should be nourishing and in-line with your goals.
What does healthy food-based self-care look like?
- Tune in to why you are eating.
Are you really just thirsty? Or bored? Or eating because there is still food on the table? Are you seeking comfort or sweetness you’re otherwise lacking in your life? If you’ve eaten a decent meal within the last couple of hours, try having a glass of water or a cup of herbal tea before digging into a snack.
- Eat when you’re hungry.
If you are truly physically hungry, eat something, but try to choose whole food and include some fat or protein to increase satiety.
- Drink water.
Only water is water, and the importance of hydration is often under rated. Consider all the systems of the body that utilize water – digestion for making saliva and stomach acid, circulatory system to ensure blood flows smoothly, and in the nervous system your brain is over 70% water.
- Eat real food, and a wide variety of it.
Our children are taught to eat the rainbow, striving to include foods of all colours: red (tomatoes, radishes), orange (peppers, squash), yellow (onions, lemons), green (spinach, zucchini), blue and purple (eggplant, cabbage) and even white (cauliflower, mushrooms) every day. Real food is something you can picture growing!
- Make mindful choices about what you are eating.
Choose food that feeds not only your body, but also your higher goals.
- Focus on the food. Don’t multitask.
Take the time to plate your food in an attractive way, feel the texture in your mouth, be aware of the smells and the complexity of flavours. Avoid eating in front of the television, while driving, or with your cell phone scrolling and distracting you. By focussing on what you’re eating, you’ll enjoy your food more, and digest it more effectively, allowing you to absorb more of the nutrients.
- Plan ahead.
Meal planning and batch cooking are practical tools, that saves time and money.Maybe you have an occasion coming up, or are planning a restaurant meal. In that case, have a look ahead of time at the menu and see what the best choices for you are – you can even call and speak to the chef to ensure they can accommodate your choices. Sometimes I’ll eat a healthy snack at home beforehand if the best choices won’t be filling enough. And, I often have to remind myself… “these events are about the people, not the food.”
So, fellow Healthoholics, let’s load our plate with beautiful veggies and protein, sit down with no distractions (small children don’t count), and thoughtfully chew our food, while becoming aware of our bodies’ responses.
Eating well is self-care.
So, tell us… How do you include eating well in your self-care plan?