The choices we make around food are revealing our attitudes and beliefs towards ourselves. We are all writing our food history every day, starting from when we were kids up to now. And the chapters of our stories couldn´t be any different.
Some of us grew up with scarce food resources, others were forced to eat everything that was on their plate, being told that otherwise the sun wouldn´t shine the next day. When puberty kicked in and our hormones threw a cocktail party, our bodies did change regardless of whether we liked it or not.Same with menopause. Many of us have tried out every diet in numerous attempts to loose weight, some succeeded while others didn´t. Some people are thin as a matchstick and still regard themselves as fat.Or they just have difficulties gaining weight. Millions of people are dealing with food intolerances that are restricting their food choices. And often we find comfort in food to get the nurturing that we cannot fulfill on other levels. And sometimes we even become obsessed and plan our life around food. Even healthy eating can be become quite unhealthy when motivated by fear. Orthorexia nervosa (a fixation on righteous eating) is common these days and reminds us that being healthy is not limited to our bodies and nourishing diets. As important a healthy diet is as vital part of physical healing, we might not forget to check our mental and emotional diet as well.
Writing your food story
Starting a food journal for a couple of days is a very helpful way to clarify some of your beliefs and attitudes of what, when and how you are eating. Plus, it also helps to detect some intolerances if you are experiencing digestive issues or any other physical symptoms like fatigue or skin reactions. You might take a few minutes before meal preparation and/or eating to acknowledge your thoughts and feelings around what is on your plate. Also, consider the situations in that you are eating – is it during a hectic lunch break, or maybe you are bored or you are just hungry. Write all this down, as well as what you are eating and the quantities. Afterwards, stay aware of physical sensations. Maybe you feel satisfied and satiated, maybe you crave sweets five minutes later or you are bloated and have to run to the toilet straight? And dont forget your thoughts and feelings – is there any regret, any negative self-talk and shouldn´ts, or are you as happy as a bumble bee?
I guess with every eating habit you need to acknowledge the fact that your body´s need will change over time. That can be due to literally anything. Age, climate, activity, hormonal changes – just to mention a few. So start listening closely to your body, know the food facts, be honest with yourself and create your meals according to whats right for your type and taste at this stage of your life. Acceptance and self-love are crucial for healing to take place. Regardless of whether you have serious troubles with intolerances or you can eat what you like and still have an awesome poop afterwards, or you want to get a different shape or simply adopt a healthier lifestyle – nourishing and nurturing are going hand in hand. And it can start as simple as taking a few baby steps.
11 Baby steps to eating well
1. Choose local, seasonal, and organic wherever its possible: Celebrate the return to food´s origin. By doing so, you are not only tuning your body into the natural rhythm of the seasons coming and going, but you are also supporting local farmers in your area and get a full burst of freshness and flavour!
2. Cut out processed, pre-packaged and refined foods: This is the most profund step to take. Start reading the labels. Make some more time to cook for yourself. The simple things can make a difference.
3.Reduce your sugar intake: See above. Once you have more of an idea and control over what you are eating, there will be automatically less sugar in your diet. Reducing sugar doesn´t mean you have to pull your sweet tooth. Opt for more more natural sugars such as found in fruits,dates,agave,honey and rice malt syrup. Apart from latter, those are still high in fructose and yes, all of them do have calories. However, natural sugars have a higher mineral content, some vitamins and even healing properties which makes them healthier. Additionally, they often taste even sweeter than sugar, so you may discover you need less sweetness in your cuppa. And please don´t go for non-nutritive and artificial sweeteners. They aren´t any good. Seriously.
4. Go for the veggies: Give a little bit more life to your meals with a good load of vegetables Ideally one should aim for 2 1/2 cups of vegetables per day. However thats the ideal. Find out what is possible for you. Maybe you can manage to add one piece of veg to every meal. It can be as simple as some cucumber slices and capsicum on your cheese sandwich or some lettuce leaves and baby spinach with your pasta. Another great way to trick yourself into getting your daily portion of vegetables is to drink them. Thanks to the Smoothie&Jucing Boom lately, it has become normal to liquidise almost everything. Mixed with fruit, you might not even taste the veggie garden in your glass. My favourite greens for a smoothie are spinach, cucumber and celery. Combined with whatever fruit I can get and sometimes banana for a sweeter touch and always a good squeeze of lemon, I enjoy a green bombshell in the morning or in between. Almost better than coffee.
5. Listen to your body: The simple rule is when it comes to detecting food intolerances: If it bloats you, makes you gassy or runny its quite likely that its not so good for you. Another way to monitor what makes you feel good or not is food journalling as described above. Also slow your pace while eating. Give your stomach the chance to signal when its full. And maybe also consider only to eat when you are hungry instead of following the 7am brekky-1pm lunch – 6pm dinner routine. See what works best for you, taking into consideration your needs and lifestyle.
6. Eat mindfully: Rooted in the Buddhist teachings, the concept of mindful eating is by far more than just eating slowly and at pace. Apart from what we eat, it is equally important how we eat. Eating mindully focuses on the experience of eating. That means checking in with your intention and attention when it comes to preparation and the act of eating itself. Mindfulness implies a state of being present with all that is, what is happening inside you in any given moment and embracing all aspects of it – the good ones and even the unpleasant ones. It is about creating acceptance and compassion, because everything is actually ourselves. So start paying attention to your physical and emotional cues of what, why when and how you are eating. And take your time to really enjoy your food – because if its a reflection of you, wouldn´t you want to celebrate it?
7. Good vibrations: We live in a vibrational world, and where attention goes, life flows. Every thought carries a vibration and affects your body and being. Dr.Masaru Emoto proved in his water crystal experiment the power of positive intent and consciousness. He found when directing positive, loving thoughts, words and emotions ot frozen water examples, it would form symmetrical snowflake like crystals. The water samples that were influenced with negative thoughts, emotions and words were asymmetrical and rather chaotic in shape and structure. Considering that the human body is made up aof a huge amount of water,creating and sending out good vibrations to every cell in your body and everything you are going to put into it makes sense! The reason behind all those mumbled eating prayers in many cultures is quite powerful. So consider taking a few moments of gratitude and bring your body and meal into the same vibration. You don´t need to pray or chant OM three times, just a simple nice thought can do the job, too.
8. Eat balanced: Life is all about balance and it doesn´t make an exemption when it comes to food. Aim to include all macronutrients – the three major nutrient food groups aka fats, carbohydrates and protein – into your daily meals. This may be as part of a main or in form of yummy snacks during the day. This is to ensure your body is supplied with what it needs. Its advisible to stick to recommended ratios, but in the end you know yourself best and simply adjust each of them to what your body requires.. The good thing about eating a balanced diet is that so-called crappy food days (what would life be like without them?) won´t throw you off. It is about keeping the balance!
9. Try out something new: Inspired by what is new on the food market? Be bold and try something new. Why not a vegan day or week or a month of paleo? Or get inspired by some of the traditional food philosophies of the macrobitic approach, Ayurveda or the Five Element Cooking of Traditional Chinese Medicine. There are boundless opportunities when it comes to cooking! And you will feel a difference. Sometimes it is not necessarily about omitting and ditching certain foods and groups (unless you are really intolerant) but more about discovering the whole lot of diversity that nature provides us with. A change is as good as a holiday, and food can be very easy like that. And to get inspiration, just surf the web. I am a follower of Sarah Brittons mynewroots.org which is not only yummsville but also educating. Sarah is a Holistic Nutritionist and a Certified Nutritional Practicioner and will definitely tell you why sweet potato and beans are good for you! Kale yeah! My other source of inspiration is Andrea Bemis with Dishingupthedirt.com. As a farmer, her blog documents the way food travels all the way from the field to the table. Plus, Andrea provides with you with creative and simply delicious tastebud-pleasing meals. Inspiring, nourishing and loving.
10. Respect other people´s food choices: You are thriving on your new food style and are high on the nutitional boost you are getting with its all over benefits. Good on ya! However, be aware to not become obstinate about your eating style compared to others. Remember that your way is not the highway. So don´t judge your friends if they are “still” eating grains or crucify anyone who is not on the veggie path. Instead, inspire, let go and good. Honour your body and others will follow, maybe another day in their very own way.
11. Break Your Rules: Your friend has baked a delicious looking batch of oh-not-so vegan and very unclean brownies and they are smiling at you? Eat them. Stuck in the middle of nowhere and all that you can find in the 7/11 is a Coke and every cell in your body is screaming for it? Down it. Because at the end of the day it matters what did save you in extreme situations and how much you enjoyed.
Some lekker stuff on the web and a menu of information&inspiration:
Dr.Masaru Emoto: The Hidden Messages in Water
Thich Nhat Hanh: The Miracle of Mindfulness: An introduction to the Practice of Meditation