How do you start mindful eating?
I have made no secret over the years and during my year of blogging, that Food and I haven’t always have the most healthy of relationships. So I owe it to you to start with a word of caution. This piece is not meant to replace the valuable work of therapists and nutritionists. But what this post is all about, is my recent experience of getting into an (open) relationship with mindful eating, and how I can only but encourage you to give it a try. And this is also about me telling you that; if your food/body relationship often feels hopeless; there is hope.
Until now I had been living with the following core belief:
FOOD is a source of anxiety therefore I must EXERCISE intensively everyday, but it makes me FRUSTRATED or makes me feel like I get eating CREDITS to eat more, but I immediately REGRET indulging, so I punish myself with RESTRICTION and more EXERCISE. And here we go full circle. Sounds familiar?
I made the mistake last year to go ketogenic and to cut out all sugars, carbs and most of high FODMAP food; convincing myself I was helping my digestive issues. It felt incredible. But what a curse in disguise. Turns out carbs do provide the necessary fibre for a healthy absorption and digestion. And cutting it out, made things far worse for me. Carbs also make you happier, less prone to over-eating or binging caused by frustrations. And because it isn´t really a sustainable solution, the yo-yo effect is reaaaal. Read this great article on why you shouldn´t cut carbs.
Educating myself around gut health, nutrition, mindfulness has tremendously helped. But living with the most mindful eater has been the true blessing. He eats when he wants, and doesn’t when he doesn’t feel like it. He has pizza and fries, but doesn’t crave it, since they aren´t tabou. He exercises when his body requires to, but doesn’t overdo. No frustration, no yo-yo.
So baby steps in, I took a leap of faith and tried to mirror it.
As scared as I was, I reintroduced carbs (yes even bread and pasta in mindful portions) and have seen myself changed. When I see myself reach for more, I now ask myself. Are you fuelling yourself because you need to or are you filling a void. I am more satisfied, my gut health has improved so much and I feel more balanced, less on the edge because the need for control is gone. To help, I started eating kefir and drinking kombucha (health wankers hello!) and other types of fermented food and paired them with probiotics. And I have saved my gut!
I also started changing my attitude to exercising, by treating it more like a reward or an escape, by seeing it as a moment to myself not as an imperial requirement. Suddenly I felt in charge but in a positive way, and because I was training less but more efficiently, my attitude to food was more natural, more intuitive.
So my friend I can only encourage you to:
#1 Get educated
And here are two fantastic resources that help me and encourage me. Rhiannon Lambert: a certified nutritionist who just cuts the crap and kindly educates. And Nutrition By Nathalie (All Good Eats on Instagram), a registered dietitian and functional medicine nutritionist. And there are a lot more out there. Find a professional source to help you demystify food groups and unhealthy behaviours and who give good easy recipes that won’t scare you off.
#2 Don´t cut any food out if you can
Unless you have clear allergies and severe intolerances, cutting out food is not a sustainable solution and could really aggravate your relationship to food, and like me your digestive system. I know trusting that your body will respond, trusting that your mind will rest is hard, so hard. But as scared as I was to spiral down, I found freedom. By allowing all food groups in a balanced way, I have finally be able to stick to the right portion. Not too little, not binging.
#3 Exercise for happiness
Not to mirror the Instagram girls, not because an inner voice forces you to, but because it makes you feel alive and well and balanced.
God knows I have my days, and for now, I know it is something I need to watch out and cajole. The jump can be scary and letting go of the reins is, but gentleness is key.