Guest article by Rhiannon Lytle, Holistic Nutritionist
Specializing in hormones, digestive health and general nutrition
We always hear about the importance of self-care: face masks, hot bubble baths, meditation, working out. Self-care is a ritual, created to give you time for yourself and to care for your body. However, when we think about self-care, we tend to forget about one fundamental component: what we eat and how we eat it.
“You are what you eat”. This means that the food we consume not only controls how we look, but it can impact our mood, energy, libido, mental clarity… the list goes on. You can learn more about how to eat for your mental health here [insert link to 1 day meal plan for brain health].
Do you ever eat lunch while sitting at your computer or in front of the television? Next thing you know your full plate is gone and you’re still a little bit hungry. That’s why practicing mindful eating is essential to our self-care practice.
This sounds simple, but can you tell me the number of times you actually chew your food before you swallow? I bet it’s no more than 10, and that’s being generous.
Chewing your food is the first step in digesting food, and better digestion means better absorption of nutrients. Thoroughly chewing our food also means you notice a feeling of satiety faster and avoid overeating.
We’ve all fallen victim to this one – you’re busy with work and taking a break means you would totally be wasting time. In reality, when you eat undistracted, you actually are supporting your digestive process and allowing your body to better absorb all of those good nutrients.
If you really can’t eat undistracted, try taking 5 deep belly breaths before diving into your meal. Doing this can help calm our vagus nerve (the part of our nervous system that connects the brain to the body), resulting in reduced feelings of stress or anxiety.
This is important before we eat, as it helps to put us in a state of “rest and digest”. This means we can actually digest and absorb all of the wonderful nutrients on our plates!
Another way to eat mindfully, is to actually look at what you’re about to consume. Smell it, look at the colours, how does eating this make you feel? How will not eating it make you feel?
You can also practice this by reading ingredient labels on packaged foods. Many times we’ll reach for a bag of chips or box of cookies without thinking, but once we realize how many ingredients we can’t pronounce, we may change our mind.
Intuitive eating takes practice. It takes into consideration all of the above tips, and combines them into one.
It means you take inventory, and think about how the food will make you feel. Will it satisfy your cravings, or does it simply follow the rules of your diet? Are you truly craving that cookie? Or did you just not consume enough protein at lunch? It means taking the time to chew your food and avoiding distraction to see if it’s truly what you need.
And remember, show yourself a little grace when practicing intuitive eating. Each “mess up” is actually a learning opportunity for you. It teaches you how eating certain foods makes your body feel good, vs. ones that make you feel better. We learn when certain food rules can go out the window, and when we need to be more regimented.
So remember these tips at your next meal and let us know if they work!