Updated: Sep 23
How do you define Health? According to the World Health Organisation “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
Yet when you look up healthy eating, you get a list of foods to eat, foods to avoid, tips and “hacks”. It’s as if we are expected to be robots; put in the correct formula of food and suddenly we will perform perfectly.
But we are humans with emotions, personal preferences and beliefs, the desire to live an enjoyable life, to create memories. And food is a big part of that. We eat cake at birthdays, toast champagne at new year, have a dish that instantly reminds us of family.
So how does that tie in with healthy eating?
There’s years of research on how much protein you should eat, the impact of high carbohydrate or high fat diets etc. But there is also increasing research on the importance of mindfulness and nutrition. How self compassion, gratitude and awareness can help us become healthier, have a better relationship with food and with our bodies.
Here I will introduce you to 3 tools you can implement into your daily life to improve your health.
Self compassion is extending compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure or general suffering.
How many times have you started a diet, full of best intentions, only to eat something you weren’t “allowed” and then spent the following hours or days beating yourself up? Have you ever thought “well I’ve messed up anyway, I might as well continue” followed by all the foods you had been denying yourself, or you’d deemed bad.
Trust me, you are not alone.
Self-compassion is linked to improved body image and lower levels of disordered eating, and the research is there to prove it.
One study took individuals with restrained eating which meant they had their own rules on what food they could eat. These individuals were asked to eat a doughnut. Afterwards, some of them were then spoken to compassionately, while others weren’t. What the individuals ate after was monitored.
Those who had been spoken to kindly ate less “unhealthy” foods and had a lower caloric intake than those who weren’t.
Doughnut + self compassion → reduced subsequent caloric intake
Doughnut - self compassion → increased subsequent caloric intake
How to use this:
- Remove the moral attachment to foods. This removes the guilt from eating food and desire to eat more when not hungry.
- Be kind to yourself when you eat these foods. You are a human and it is food, humans eat and want to eat delicious food! Enjoy the food when you eat it, savour it, remember the occasion.
Mindfulness is the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever we’re doing at the moment . Being aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not being overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
How often have you eaten some food and not realised what it tasted like? You look down only to find you’ve already finished the bag of crisps and hadn’t noticed. You find yourself reaching for the biscuits when you’re stressed, even if you’re not hungry. Or just grabbing food between meetings working from home to find yourself physically full but mentally really hungry by the end of the day.
Mindfulness with food has been shown to reduce cravings, reduced dichotomous or black or white thinking, reduced body image issues and reduced emotional eating.
How to use this:
- Imagine you are at a restaurant and want to savour every mouthful of this meal. Be aware of the taste, texture, smell, colour. Even if you’re eating the same breakfast you have eaten for the past year.
- Turn off all distractions. No TV, no phone, no meetings, no books. Just you and your food (and anybody else joining you for the meal.
- Eat your meals at a table.
- Take 10 minutes for each meal. Yes, even if it’s just a snack bar.
- And be compassionate with yourself when this isn’t possible. We are human, life happens and sometimes we have to do things like eat a sandwich in your car while driving because it’s your only chance to eat.
Our body is an incredible thing, and does a fantastic job at regulating itself. But for many people who have been on and off diets, listening to your hunger and fullness signals is much easier said than done. It can take time to get back in tune, but using a hunger scale can be a great tool.
It goes from 1 to 10. 1 is that moment when your stomach hurts, you're tired, and light headed. 10 is you’ve completely overdone christmas dinner. Jeans are fully un done, your stomach hurts and you might be sick.
Ideally we want to eat somewhere between a 2 and a 3. We’re hungry, we definitely need some food, there might have been a little growl.
And we want to stop around the 7 mark. We’re completely satisfied, stomach might be a little full but the hunger has completely gone.
How to use this:
- Check in with your hunger throughout the day and when you’re eating.
- Let yourself eat when you’re hungry. It’s ok to eat outside the expected eating patterns set out by others. But also hunger is not an emergency, it is ok to sit with your hunger (as long as it isn’t through feeling guilty).
- Stop when you’re hungry, even if you haven’t finished your food. It’s ok to not eat everything on your plate, but it is also OK to go past a 7 if for example your grandma has just brought out her famous trifle.
Tying this all together
These 3 tools join together really well.
Recognising our hunger, and honouring that with food that makes us feel good. Enjoying the food we eat and being kind to ourselves when we do eat too much, or go a day without eating vegetables.
We are humans with emotions, not robots. And life doesn’t always go to plan. Eat cake at birthdays, toast champagne at new year, eat the famous family dish and enjoy it. Because health is complete physical, mental and social well-being.
My Type Of Life
My Type Of Life is nutrition coaching to help you live the type of life you have always wanted, giving you the confidence to create memories and allowing you to sit back proudly and think “this is My Type Of Life”.
It’s about doing something new, achieving that dream, all while becoming the healthiest version of you.
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