In preparation for one of my most favorite holidays, I’m accepting a challenge to myself. I’ve decided to devote these next nine days to kicking my own willpowers’s ass into shape.
I’m going dairy-free, gluten-free, refined sugar-free. To clarify, it’s not because I think these foods in particular are “bad” for me. Rather, it is because of my love for dairy, gluten, and sugary foods. In monitoring my intake strictly for these next few days, I hope to become more in tune with how the foods I eat affect my body and mind. I hope to detoxify my body by eating a mainly plant-based diet. And most importantly, to grow a greater awareness with food.
This is why.
Nutrition is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Like, A LOT. How what we eat affects our body so deeply, more deeply than we know.
About a month ago, I got back into the practice of yoga and am already feeling the positive benefits both physically and mentally. In thinking about the mind body relationship, I have seen how the choices of the mind can greatly affect one’s physical nature. Choices in food are purely an act of the mind.
I often ask myself, what does it mean to eat healthy? To eat meat or not to eat meat? Grain-fed or grass-fed?Organic or sustainable? Dairy or lactose-free? Soy? Gluten? Carbohydrates? Refined sugar, synthetic sugar substitutes, or no sugar at all? What about high-fructose corn syrup? Is there such a thing as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ fats? Are processed foods okay in moderation? Are all calories created equal? Et cetera.
These are all questions that run through my mind constantly. Some questions I believe to have more accurate answers to than others, but there is simply too much conflicting information out there to lay it out in black and white. For the most part, though, it’s simple. A healthy diet should include primarily plant-based foods (fruits and veggies), lots of nuts, seeds, complex carbohydrates, and healthy proteins.
More significant than the food itself, though, the key a healthy diet for me has recently become the cultivation of an awareness with food. This is something that I’ve thus far habitually neglected. I consider myself to be a balanced eater, but too often for me is food consumed mindlessly and without gratitude. I am guilty of thoughtlessly grabbing a snack simply out of boredom, I do this all the time. I also often find myself eating a meal too quickly, again, mindlessly. This is also something that I hope to change.
By simply being aware, I can recognize when I’m actually hungry and when I’m just bored or eat out of habit. I can be conscious of the circumstances under which the food is created. I can consider whether the food I’m eating is something that was nurtured with respect and integrity, or a mass produced mishmash of chemicals and corn syrup. Through my awareness, I may slow down and appreciate the sensations of a meal: the flavors, the texture, the atmosphere, and my company. To listen to the feeling of satiety, and to witness how my food affects me both physically and mentally, that is to be mindful.
Please don’t misunderstand me: awareness does not necessarily mean one must eat a strictly “healthy” diet. Rather, it simply implies that we should be cognizant of what we are putting in our bodies habitually, and to understand how it will affect us. Consider alcohol: if you have eight drinks without taking a moment to consider the consequences of a severe hangover, you’re way more likely get after it! However, I can bet that if you took the time to think about how crappy you’d feel the next day before having your second or third drink, you’d likely stick with only one or two. But hey, if you want to party your ass off one night or eat a particularly indulgent meal every now and again and have understood the repercussions, I’m all for it (and I’ll probably join)! Regardless of our choices though, we may develop a more direct relationship with certain foods (and drinks) and how they affect our bodies and minds through awareness. That is, particularly if well-being is a priority for you.
I often wonder, do I have control over the foods I eat, or do the foods that I eat control me? I would like to think that I have control, but the latter becomes the truth all too often. To have complete control of your diet takes a great deal of effort, patience and willpower, so much so that I often doubt my own abilities. From simply abstaining from reaching into the cabinet for those yummy goldfish crackers, to opting for a healthier option on a menu chock full of greasy deliciousness. Strengthening willpower is as crucial to your health and well-being as frequent exercise. Being mindful of my intake is the first step.
Today is Day 1 of my challenge, and so far I’m going strong on a green juice of kale, cucumber, an apple, and a few carrots. Having a juicer is so crucial, and I want to thank my parents for that!
I will keep you updated on my observations and findings.