Nourish your vitality, mind, and emotions when you eat. Not everything you are tempted to put into your mouth is nutritious. Most processed, treated, and refined foods lack nutritional value. The chemicals and preservatives disrupt communication in your mind-body-spirit system. Processed foods are high in salt, sugar, and unhealthy fat. In other words, they offer a lot of what you don’t need and very little of what you do.
Since these foods are typically void of nutrition, we eat them to fill other needs. Their consumption is often rooted in cravings, which may be for a certain taste, emotional comfort or because we are thirsty. Do you acknowledge these alternative reasons for eating? Observe yourself and your diet to identify any patterns.
- Do you eat when you are happy? Sad? Bored? Lonely?
- Do you crave sugar? Salt? Spices?
- Are you confusing thirst with hunger?
Pinpointing these patterns help you to develop strategies for coping with them. In turn, these strategies are your guides to a lifetime of good health and feeding your body with intention and nutrition.
There are five types of taste. Sweet, sour, salty, astringent, and bitter. At different times, the body will seek them all out. Many people are familiar with the desire for something sweet after a meal or a salty snack in the afternoon. These cravings are based on taste, not nutrition.
Scientists have proven that on an average, cravings last approximately fifteen minutes. Even though you feel as if you won’t last another second without a cookie, it simply isn’t true. If you can occupy your mind with deep breathing or another activity until the craving passes, you will survive.
The Ayurvedic lifestyle also offers a strategy to deal with taste-based cravings. According to these ancient teachings, the best way to solve the problem of eating for taste is to nourish all of these sensations in every meal. Look for natural sources of each taste and combine them to satisfy your food cravings before they begin. Your meals could include a variety of foods from each taste group. This includes sweet fruit, astringent herbs, sour yogurt, salty cheese, and bitter spinach. This may require that you begin to see foods differently, but that is an inevitable byproduct of feeding your body with intention. Food becomes fuel, not an answer to a craving.
The human body is 70% water. Good health requires that you remain hydrated. Most people don’t drink enough water and when this occurs, the body sends you a signal. Often this signal is misinterpreted as hunger. So before you hit the food, drink a glass of water. This may be just what your body needs. And giving your body what it needs is the basis for proper nutrition.
Some cravings are emotionally based. Throughout your life, you may have associated food with a number of situations, which, in turn, became automatic responses. If as a child, you were treated to a bowl of ice cream when you were sad, chances are as an adult you will repeat this pattern to nourish your self. The ice cream made you feel better then, so you assume it will make you feel better now. It often does for a little while. However, in the end, you are still left with an unresolved situation or emotion. The only thing you fed was your sweet tooth, and as we all know what it wants is hardly ever nutritious.
Our world is a highly stressful one and many people turn to food as an escape. Like the emotional eating described above, eating to release stress is only a temporary fix. It does not offer you valid emotional or nutritional value. Instead of reaching for the chips, reach for a pad and pencil. Help yourself learn to deal with your emotions by making a list under the heading Emotions I Would Feel If I Allowed Myself To Do So. Write down any emotion, positive or negative, that you feel you are holding back. Your list could include anger, joy, guilt, sadness or love. When you eat out of stress or for comfort, you are using food to stuff these emotions back inside.
Now go down your list and allow yourself to really feel each emotion. Use deep belly breathing to help yourself focus and center. This process teaches that these emotions are a part of you with a need to be expressed. You owe it to yourself and your health to freely express your emotions without fear or shame. Once you accomplish this, you may find that open communication is more satisfying than cookies, cake or any other foodstuff you would have previously reached for.