A major pillar of wellness is the health of our body. Besides rest and exercise, eating is a major factor of physical wellbeing. Eating well helps us sleep, think, and act better on a daily basis. Our diets, therefore, ultimately impact our emotional, mental, and spiritual health.
We have been exposed, either directly or indirectly, to countless fad diets throughout the years. Paleo, carb free, intermittent fasting, the grapefruit diet, and more have each been marketed as the diet to get desired results. These results, however, are not guaranteed nor are they consistent.
These diets tend to fail a lot of people for two main reasons. First, people tend to focus on diet as opposed to diet and exercise. Exercise, of any sort as long as it is regular, is needed for a healthy body. Second, most diets focus on what you cannot eat. You can’t have soda, dessert, or anything with sugar, carbs, gluten, additives, etc, etc, etc. Besides forcing you to cut out some really tasty treats and meals (double bacon cheeseburgers with fries and a milkshake, anyone?), it makes you constantly think about what you can no longer eat.
Some people have the willpower to muscle through the first few weeks of a diet and are able to adjust to new eating habits. Most of us give up too early and end up binging on cheat days or, worse, fall off the tracks entirely.
This is why diets don’t really work. They are done in a way where you focus on what you can’t eat, are miserable with the boring food you try to consume instead, and results are not immediate.
We are needy people. We need those results (and that chocolate chip cookie), damnit!
Instead, I propose we try a different approach. As opposed to a new diet, let us simply eat mindfully.
Eating mindfully encompasses the entire consumption process, from start to finish.
- We mindfully shop for quality ingredients
- We mindfully prepare those ingredients
- We mindfully eat the meals we have mindfully created
I’m using the word “mindfully” a lot so it becomes engrained in your (and my) head.
To clarify, to mindfully do anything is to be thoughtful and in the moment. Yes, this can get as tiresome as it sounds, but it totally worth it.
Allow me to illustrate and example:
I would like to meal prep my lunches for this week but am unsure of what to make. Usually, I procrastinate to the point where I don’t have time and so opt for ordering food (usually of the fast variety) for my lunches. This time, though, I want to be mindful about the process.
- So I spend a few minutes Googling recipes for lunch meal prep.
- I find a couple of recipes I like and then make some adjustments based on my own preferences.
- I decide that for lunch I will have seasoned grilled chicken with roasted cauliflowers and a sweet potato. Sounds yum.
- I proceed to carve out time to go grocery shopping and pick the ingredients for this meal prep myself.
- I reward myself for being so good by tossing in a carton of Blue Bunny ice cream.
- I come home, sort through the groceries, and then mindfully begin meal prepping with some music or a podcast playing in the background (I may or may not dance, sing, or talk to myself/the podcast as this process unfolds).
- When the food is cooked, I portion it out into containers so lunch is ready to be grabbed on my way out.
This is mindfulness with regards to eating. You are thoughtful, aware, and present throughout the entire process.
The part where I purchased ice cream wasn’t entirely a joke. Depending on your goals and health situation, treating yourself to dessert is perfectly ok. As long as you don’t over do it in any one sitting, you will still be able to get in better shape.
If I had a soda or milkshake earlier in the day, I’m going to do my best to avoid dessert later one. Likewise, if I know I’ll be eating something unhealthy at a party or dinner, I’ll have something lighter and healthier earlier on.
Everything in moderation.
You also don’t have to be perfect.
I’m speaking more towards general healthy eating. If you have serious health concerns or weight loss goals, then you may really need to consider something beyond what I am discussing. Otherwise, you don’t have count calories. Please, don’t count calories. You will drive yourself and everyone around you absolutely mad.
By selecting, preparing, and consuming meals in a thoughtful manner you will begin to make better decisions for yourself. Our bodies and lifestyles are all different. What might be too many carbs for you may be not enough for someone else depending on metabolism, genetics, and exercise.
There is nothing stopping you from creating and following your own unique diet. Just be sure to be realistic with your goals and holding yourself accountable.
Don’t forget the importance of exercise.
If your cheat day ends up lasting a whole weekend, just do better starting tomorrow morning. Beating yourself up will cause distress which, for me anyways, leads to some not-so-healthy emotional eating.
Be accountable for yourself while also holding room for compassion and forgiveness.
One last bit that has been helpful for me is to take some time to marvel at and be grateful for your body. It was designed to experience taste, digest food, and give you nutrients and energy. Our bodies are truly marvelous!
Now go out there and (mindfully) enjoy your next meal!
As we say in Greece, Kali Orexi!