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 just about every aspect of your life. Even when it comes to your diets, it can transform your relationship with food. This, in turn, impacts your mind with the ability to be quite therapeutic. How you fuel your bodies with nutrition is important, of course; but as ever, there is a deeper layer to mindfulness to be explored.
When practiced in relation to your diet, mindfulness teaches you to think about the food that you consume in a more holistic, well-rounded manner, as opposed to 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 impacts 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 that are informed both by clinical and practical applications. Through these considerations, her clients are empowered to meet their personal 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 to 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 the way 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 does require two things of her clients: first, you have to like the food; and second, 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 not only to understand nutrition science, but also to learn more about how it relates specifically to your body.”
Food Mindfulness at the Macro-Level
Analyzing your relationship and reaction to your diets is just one piece of the mindfulness puzzle, which brings greater awareness to 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 not only affect your mind, body, and spirit, but also how it affects the planet and our cohabitants. If we want to have a full, immersive mindful experience through what we consume, we have to ask ourselves a few questions as we plan out 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 simply 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 that are 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 soil where the crops grow; creating not only nutrient dense meat and produce, but also healthy soil that retains water and carbon.”
We have to also think about the simple things, like what is our food packaged in? What is the carbon footprint of this meal I’m consuming? It not only matters where the food is coming from in terms of the practices used to cultivate it, but taking distance into consideration in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, and wastefulness concerning packaging. These are important steps to keep in mind to cultivate a well-rounded approach to mindfulness around food and our diets.
Implementing Mindfulness Around Food Into Your Life
Beyond taking time to think about the external impact of what you consume, and what your body needs in terms of fuel and sustenance, there is another element: the pure pleasure derived from consuming and preparing the foods you love. Finding ways to involve all five of our senses is a good place to start.
To begin, Ridgen recommends finding what she calls 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 are going to 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. Really think about what each item is bringing to the table (pun intended) in terms of 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 are deriving from each ingredient of the meal.
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 habits that might not be serving you is the first step to making meaningful change. No one is perfect. Perfect is not the goal.”
“We cannot change what we’re not aware of,” Ridgen reminds us. “The more you understand about your needs, the more you can nourish them.” After all, mindfulness is a crucial tool to cultivating self-awareness in life itself. With diet at the foundation of health and wellness, strengthening your lens with culinary consciousness possesses tremendous potential to us each.