Mindful eating is not an act, but a habit developed after days of commitment. Your body itself tries to let you know about its requirements. Exercise plans, diet regulations and perspective of others on ‘healthy diet’ prove to be detrimental for your body. The pre-conceived notions we have in our minds affect not just what we eat but how our body processes it.
Being a dietician, I have seen several cases of young men who take on excessive dieting and exercise routines. Mostly this is only by listening to someone else who apparently “lost weight” by doing some specific diet or “built a lean body” by drinking some protein shake. The consequences of listening to others are hazardous. Most young men start getting conscious about their bodies and end up harming their health in order to look a specific way.
You must realize that your health must be the top-most priority for you, always. And, once you are healthy overall, fitness will come easily to you.
Here are some ways which you can adapt to begin mindful eating and achieve a healthy body.
1. Get out of your own head
Did you know it depends on our minds how well our body processes the food we eat? A small, pea-sized part of our brain, hypothalamus, is responsible for the emotional functioning of our body.
(Bear with me) Think of your emotion towards your food as the Commissioner of Police, your hypothalamus as the Police Headquarters, and your Digestive System as the task force.
If the Commissioner gives the Police Headquarters a negative signal in an operation, the task force will be ordered to stay put and do nothing. However, as soon as the Commissioner gives a thumbs up, Police Headquarters will order the task force to complete the operation and provide them all the resources to do so. (Been watching Brooklyn 9-9 a lot lately!)
Similarly, if you have a negative emotion towards the food you’re about to eat-guilt, hatred, sadness, etc. – hypothalamus passes on the signal to the digestive system and it is unable to digest the food efficiently; resulting in weight gain, etc.
Having a positive emotion, on the other hand, catalyzes the digestion process and your body is able to create digestive juices and retrieve more nutrients from the ingested food.
Throughout the article, keep this analogy in your mind and things will make more sense to you.
2. Harsh Diets? No Thank You!
Staying hungry has never solved any problems- it may arise new ones though! Gas problems, headaches, dullness, fatigue, etc.
If you’re hungry, eat! Do not starve yourself. Just be mindful of not eating junk food- opt for healthy foods and snacks. These will not only satisfy your hunger but will also keep your health in check. Don’t let the magazines fool you by suggesting the adequate calorie intake per day. Your body isn’t some sort of machine and you must realize that.
Scientists suggest that the energy requirements keep fluctuating with time. These facts are evident in the scientific research conducted by Premier National Institute of Health.
If you survived on a certain amount of food earlier doesn’t mean it has to be the same way today. Forget the calorie fulfillment and focus on fulfilling your bodily requirements.
3. Listen to Your Body
Young men are likely to ignore their hunger needs. We shouldn’t let emotional signals i.e. stress, lethargy, irritation, boredom or excitement obstruct our regular eating practices and hunger fulfilment. What we need to do is just listen to our bodies.
Do you feel your stomach growling, weakness or even slightest headache? Those are the signs that you should be focusing upon. With understanding of ways in which your body reacts, you can conquer the task of mindful eating.
3. Give Appropriate Time to Your Body
Do you remember your grandma emphasizing on taking small bites and chewing at least 25 times? Those old-school advices actually had some scientific explanation behind it. Your body sends the satiety or fullness signals after twenty minutes. That means, you might actually be full and still feel hungry.
With a habit of eating slowly, you give your body a chance to catch up and match with the signals emerging from the brain. Henceforth, follow the traditional advices that seemed pointless before. This will not only help you to avoid overeating, but also render the body with adequate nourishment.
4. Defeat Food Cravings
Another mindless way of eating is giving in to your food cravings. At times, especially when we’re stressed or upset or, well, just bored, we crave for specific foods. These cravings very rarely are for healthy foods like avocado or broccoli. You tend to crave either some junk food or sweet. The fact that they are so easily available (With door step delivery and all) it’s harder than ever to keep a check on it.
The first step towards avoiding mind-less eating is to figure out what exactly do you crave. Once you have an answer, start thinking of healthy alternatives for you to eat. The next time you crave an unhealthy food item, you must eat its alternative.
Once you make a firm decision to turn your life around and absolutely stop eating junk food and processed sweets, it won’t matter how readily available these treats are. The results you get from mindful, healthy eating would be worth the sacrifice.
5. Show Some Etiquettes Regarding Eating Habits
Having meals at odd times does more harm to your body than you can imagine. You must develop a systematic eating routine. Henceforth, if you feel hungry at any given time, you can be sure that it’s a genuine requirement and not your brain playing tricks with your body emotionally.
Where and how you eat your meal also impacts your hunger fulfilment. Ever realized how that bagel on your way to school or that burger you quickly hogged on while watching a movie never seem to satisfy your hunger? This is because your mind, preoccupied with the other stuff you’re doing, can’t focus on the satiety signals coming from your brain. Hence, you end up eating way more than your requirements. So, next time when you feel hungry, sit down, get a plateful of healthy food and eat using spoon/forks. This will help you feel full mentally and avoid you from overeating.
Also, you can enjoy your meals with a partner by your side. Through conversations, you give your body enough time and happy signals to catch up with the brain.
6. Widen Your Food Preferences
By trying out different kinds of food, we refrain ourselves from being limited to just our regulars. This habit proves to be highly eminent for the body and maintains a proper level of nutrients. By eating multiple kinds of meal, we allow ourselves to become accustomed to all of them. For physical and mental strength, men your age require nourishment. This will only come when you ingest healthy foods.
But, being limited to only one kind of “healthy” meal would become boring really quickly and before you know it, you’ll be right back to where you started. Therefore, have fun with your food! Try different cuisines, start cooking at home with different ingredients and keep experimenting. This will keep you excited and stir positive emotions about eating healthy and you’ll refrain from unhealthy food choices.
7. Emphasize on the Food’s Life Cycle
Resources like water, soil, and other elements utilized in the process of manufacture of the food lying in front of you are prodigious. You must realize the importance of the ingredients in our food and be grateful for it. With such thoughts, you not only associate positive emotions with your food but also begin to change your lifestyle for good!
Eating is a necessity but eating intelligently isn’t any less than an art. It’s high time that you start listening to your body and begin taking care of it. This is a change in lifestyle! It may seem difficult in the beginning but believe me, when you see the changes in your health and feel awesome, it’ll all be worth it.