“When we are mindful, we recognize what we are picking up. When we put it into our mouth, we know what we are putting into our mouth. When we chew it, we know what we are chewing. It is very simple.”
~Thich Nhat Hahn
This is a beautiful quote that makes healthy eating sound so simple! But add in a busy, stressful lifestyle, the fact that unhealthy junk food is everywhere and a natural inclination to turn to food to unwind and it becomes a lot more complicated!
We all know that food provides nourishment in the form of energy and essential nutrients, but it also satisfies other needs. It can be a source of pleasure, comfort, and, if you like to cook, a creative outlet. Stories of sharing food with others as a social tradition date back to as long as history has been recorded.
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In this light, eating is both a necessity and an incredibly positive, healthy part of life. But what about when food starts to fill some sort of void? Perhaps food serves as a distraction; a way to get through a day that is otherwise boring and unfulfilling. Or maybe sitting down with a bowl of ice cream at the end of the day offers a completely effortless way to find comfort and pleasure. And sometimes things can become an even larger issue and turn into a full blown food addiction or eating disorder.
Although eating should be as simple as listening to what the body needs, it’s a little more complicated than that for most people. If you’ve been eating processed foods, artificial sweeteners or ignoring your body’s cues of hunger or satiety, you might not be able to trust the signals your body is sending you. After all, who hasn’t gotten the message loud and clear that a piece of chocolate cake is exactly what your body needs?! And how many times has a nourishing plate of vegetables, chicken and sweet potato sounded like the last thing you’d want to eat? These messages are generally in direct conflict with goals of healthy eating, maintaining or losing weight and feeling energetic.
So how can you regain a sense of what your body needs? Fortunately, everyone is born with a natural intuition around food. By slowing down and incorporating mindfulness techniques- not just around eating specifically, but also in general- you can start to tap into that intuition and trust the messages your body is sending.
Mindfulness, in combination with functional medicine and nutrition is an absolutely crucial part of healing and maintaining wellness. That’s why mindful eating is one of our areas of focus for the month of July. We’ll share more on this topic in the weeks to come, but for now, keep things as simple as Zen Master and spiritual leader, Thich Nhat Hahn describes. Simply slow down; take a few deep breaths before you eat, actually look at the food on your plate and chew a few more times than you normally would. Starting there is a great first step!