How and Why to rē•create Your Diets More Mindfully
Considering your relationship to your diet.
The wellness-promoting effects of mindfulness will factor into every aspect of your life. Even when it comes to your diet, it can transform your relationship with food. This, in turn, impacts your mind with the ability to be quite therapeutic. How you fuel your body with nutrition is essential, but there is a deeper layer to mindfulness to be explored.
When practiced with your diet, mindfulness teaches you to think about the food you consume in a more holistic, well-rounded manner instead of solely considering how it nourishes the physical body. If environmental considerations are one of your values, consider whether your food has been locally-sourced. Additionally, if you are a die-hard animal-lover, perhaps a vegan, vegetarian, or flexitarian diet more closely aligns with your morals. The point is that even the emotional implications of the food you consume impact your experience of wellness even subtly, pointing to the deeper levels of the significance of your diet. As you will see, a world of dietary mindfulness awaits.
Where Food and Mindfulness Intersect
Mia Rigden, MS, CNS, created RASA to help her clients find satisfying dietary solutions informed by clinical and practical applications. These considerations empower her clients to meet their health and wellness goals. As she knows, extending the practice of mindfulness to the diet can affect the mind, body, and spirit in meaningful ways.
But what does this mean? “Mindfulness is bringing awareness to your actions and how they affect other areas of your life,” Ridgen tells rē•spin. “When you are aware of your eating habits and how they are connected to your mood, sleep, productivity, digestion, and other areas of your life, you can empower change in many areas of your life.” By first understanding the far-reaching significance of the way we feel physically and how this impacts the foundations of health, you can begin to understand even the subtle-level implications of your food choices.
Food undeniably controls how your bodies feel and perform down to your energy levels and ability to focus. While Ridgen doesn’t have any rigid, extensive rules about food (because “different foods and ways of eating work for different people”), she requires two things of her clients: first, you have to like the food; and second, you have to like the food, it has to be easy. “If you don’t enjoy it or you’re trying to follow some way of eating that doesn’t fit into your life, it’s never going to work,” she explains. “It’s critical to understand nutrition science and learn more about how it relates specifically to your body.”
Food Mindfulness at the Macro-Level
Analyzing your relationship and reaction to your diet is just one piece of the mindfulness puzzle, bringing greater awareness of how your choices impact your being and experience of life. But the other piece of the puzzle is how it affects external areas of our lives and the world around us. For instance, it is essential to understand how your food choices affect your mind, body, and spirit and how it affects the planet and our cohabitants. Therefore, if we want a full, immersive mindful experience through what we consume, we have to ask ourselves a few questions as we plan our meals.
Questions to Pose About Your Food
The origin of what we consume is imperative to sustainability concerns and the “health” of the environment from an ethical and philosophical standpoint. Ridgen says, “If it’s not good for the planet, it’s not good for your body. Full stop.” Why? “Conventional farming practices (i.e., meat and agriculture) are terrible for the environment and create foods lacking nutrients,” she explains. “Regenerative farming practices [on the other hand] are geared towards cultivating healthy soil. The cows graze on grass and fertilize the crops’ soil, creating nutrient-dense meat and producing healthy soil that retains water and carbon.”
We have to also think about simple things, like what our food is packaged in. What is the carbon footprint of this meal I’m consuming? It matters where the food is coming from in terms of the practices used to cultivate it and considers distance in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and wastefulness concerning the packaging. These are essential steps to keep in mind to develop a well-rounded approach to mindfulness around food and our diets.
Implementing Mindfulness Around Food In Your Life
Beyond the external impact of what you consume and what your body needs in fuel and sustenance, there is another element: the pure pleasure derived from consuming and preparing the foods you love. Again, finding ways to involve all five senses is an excellent place to start.
First, Ridgen recommends finding your “productive foods” that provide multi-sensorial appeal. “These are foods that look good, taste good, smell good, and make you feel good,” she says. “Everyone’s productive foods will be different, as we each have individual biological needs and preferences, but when you find them, they are the most satisfying.”
Ridgen also suggests asking a series of questions when approaching each meal. First, consider what each item brings (pun intended) regarding nutrition, enjoyment, and well-roundedness. For instance, she encourages questions such as, “Where’s my protein? Where’s my fiber? Where’s my fat? Where are my vegetables?” This categorized breakdown helps to rē•frame what is on the plate and what you derive from each meal ingredient.
To get started in this new way of thinking about food, Ridgen recommends keeping a food diary. If you notice some habits you want to change, there is no need to feel guilty; Ridgen rē•frames these as opportunities to grow and adapt.” Recognizing patterns that might not serve you is the first step to making meaningful change. No one is perfect. Perfect is not the goal.”