How Your Relationship with Food Affects Your Health

In my last post I spoke about how a healthy lifestyle starts from changing your mindset. In a nutshell what I was trying to say was that sometimes we need to re-calibrate our relationship with food in order to truly change our lifestyles for good.

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This reminded me of a very interesting podcast I heard a while back about the psychology of eating by Emily Rosen, Director of the the Institute for the Psychology of Eating and Expert in Nutritional Psychology and Marc David, MA Bestselling Author and Founder of the same institute.Unfortunately the podcast is no longer available, however here are four key points from the interview:

Mindful eating

Mindful eating is all about being focused on the present moment of eating. It is eating with intention and attention. Nature is teaching us through biology that we are designed to be present with the meal. For example, if we eat mindlessly or under stress  our digestion is impaired and nutrient absorption is decreased almost to zero.

Surprisingly, animals’ eating behaviour is a good example of mindful eating. Animals would typically drag their food to a place where they could eat in peace without others jumping in. And just like them, we, humans, are designed to eat in a state of relaxation.

Of course, animals don’t have as many imagined threats as humans. Our problem is that we get locked in psychological stories and worries. Animals let go of their stress easily, but we are not able to let go of our anxieties so well. Yet, how we eat our food and in what state we are when we eat affects how much we get out of that food.

Our perception of food

Food today is considered a nuisance and eating is seen as just an automated process. Thinking food is the enemy is creates stress and the body responds by releasing more cortisol and insulin. This in turn usually results in food being stored as fat.

Our thoughts and anxieties can become disruptive stressors to the digestive system. Hence, you can see that such toxic nutrition beliefs are dangerous. Our thoughts not only affect our food choices (like those sugar cravings we get when under stress) but also the physiological processes involved in eating and digestion.

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Understanding our emotions

Emotions need to be digested just like food. Yet we should use food as a symbolic substitute for emotional release. There has been much written about emotional eating, but the basic principle is that if you don’t get what you want or need in one area of your life,  you will seek it in other areas.

Therefore it is important to understand yourself and your emotions in order to be able control impulses. We often underestimate the impact that holding on to emotion, as well as self-attack and self-judgement, can  have and how that manifest as physical symptoms, such as poor digestion.

How to be more mindful

We need to remember that our minds need to be exercised just like our bodies. The mind is a tool which we need to learn to use and we can train it to spot negative thoughts. Start noticing when you are being too self-critical and think of something positive about yourself instead.

Did you know that 95% of the thoughts you had yesterday you will have today?

Learn to enjoy your food and be mindful of the effects it has on your body. Take 6-8 long breaths before eating to re-calibrate and relax before starting your meal. And don’t just focus on which foods are bad but also on the way foods are produced and treated.

The key message

If you’re focused on the present moment, aware of the relationship between food and your body and are inspired to take care of yourself then mindfulness shouldn’t take much effort.

The way we eat can be an indicator of our attitude and the way you do other things in life. It can also bring people together and take us back to our natural state of relaxation, gratitude, celebration and presence.

2 responses to “How Your Relationship with Food Affects Your Health

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