“Food can be love—but I think lots of the issues people have stem from trying to get a kind of love out of food that it can’t provide… I teach a mind-body skills course about food, and one of the things we always find is that people deal with food the way they deal with the rest of their lives. Of course…it’s a little more complex than that!”
From then on out, I was intrigued! I wanted to know more about her teachings. This woman was full of knowledge! After a few emails (or rather me stalking her), she graciously agreed to do a guest post about it.
So without further ado….Here’s Lisa and her “FOOD FOR THOUGHT.”
Feed Your Body, Nurture Your Soul
I’ve learned from my experience as a wellness coach that the way people deal with food is often a mirror of the way they deal with other things in their lives. When a person is experiencing issues with food, or wanting to lose weight or change behaviors and thought patterns, there is much more exploration needed than just counting calories and adding nutrient dense foods.
In fact, nutrition knowledge is often the smallest factor in a person’s food journey.
When I first began researching food and emotions, I found that many experts believe in a variation of this statement:
If you’re eating for any reason besides physical hunger, it’s the wrong reason.
I do believe that we should learn how to not eat when we’re not hungry or to help deal with negative emotions, but there are many things food does for us besides quell physical hunger. Even the way we use language and express emotions in relation to food is important.
Notice the difference in feelings associated with the following statements.
I am obsessed with food
I am passionate about food
I label foods as “good” and “bad,” and when I eat bad foods I feel guilty, and try to force myself to do better.
I love to choose foods that provide my body with nutrients, but when I choose ones that don’t, I just consider this “information” to take into account for future decisions.
Food nurtures our souls
After my training in Mind-Body Medicine, I realized I had found the missing link for all areas of wellness. This missing link is the relationship between the Mind and Body. We tend to separate Mind and Body into two different things, and when we try to improve our lifestyles we focus primarily on knowledge and strategies for change. However, especially in the realm of food, we have an opportunity to treat both the mind and the body in ways that benefit and honor each other…as well as nurturing the Mind-Body together.
Luckily there are some easy and awesome techniques that help enhance the connection and enrich your life with food and otherwise.
- Breathe deeply. When you breathe deeply into your belly, the vagus nerve is stimulated, and this tells your brain to relax (it reduces the release of stress hormones, which cause both mental and physical detriments). When you eat while you’re feeling stress, your body does not digest food properly and doesn’t absorb nutrients effectively. So you can be malnourished in spite of having a fabulous diet! Breathing deeply into your belly while eating, and throughout the day benefits your digestion, stress level, and metabolism.
- Drink enough water. Flavor it with things like lemon and/or stevia if you need to! The body thrives on adequate amounts of water (consume 1/2 your body weight in ounces of water per day for the average person). Water is a conductor, a lubricator, a blood booster, and more. Tissues that don’t have enough water don’t function properly, and this messes with your hunger signals (cravings), satiety, and your emotions.
Both of those techniques are easy enough to do if you try a little bit, right? But do you make them a focus during your day? What if you did…and you felt better and ate more healthfully as a result? It’s totally free, and takes virtually no time at all!
There are a lot of other tools, such as Experiential Meditation and the 2-5 Scale, but in the interest of keeping this a reasonable length, I’ll just tell you one more here!
Choose one piece of food (whatever feels reasonable to you). When I’m working with a group, we each choose one grape or one piece of chocolate.
I usually talk the group through the steps, but you can do it on your own too.
- Put the piece of food in the palm of your hand and look at it. Notice the color, texture, and overall appearance.
- Roll it around in your hand, touching it with your fingers. Notice its temperature, shape and the hardness or softness of the piece of food.
- Breathe deeply as you do this, but focus on the food more than on your breath.
- Think about what the piece of food will taste like and notice if your mouth starts to water. Close your eyes if you like.
- Bring the food to your nose and smell it. What does it smell like? Notice whether you want to eat the food or not. Pause.
- Put the piece of food in your mouth, but don’t chew it.
- Roll it around in your mouth and focus on how it feels on your tongue, its texture and shape.
- Bite into the food once and be super aware of the feel of it in your mouth and its taste.
- Begin chewing the food slowly, focusing on its texture and flavor.
- Chew it slowly until it dissolves and finally swallow it.
After you’re finished, reflect on the process and what it felt like to slow down and be present and aware of just one bite of food.
Many people notice how much satisfaction they can get out of one bite of food when they’re present for it, as opposed to eating larger quantities of food on “autopilot.”
There’s no right answer regarding how you should feel—it’s just an exploration that is individual for you!
You can practice this (maybe not so dramatically, but still being more present and eating without distractions).
You can start to feel the connection of how food can simultaneously feed your physical hunger and nurture your soul.
If you are interested in more information, I’d love to discuss it with you! You can also check out the website for the Center for Mind-Body Medicine to learn more about their trainings and their groundbreaking work around the world.
Lisa @ Thrive Style
Lisa, I cannot thank you enough for sharing this! It has opened up my eyes to a lot more about our relationship with food. And with that being said, I am now hungry………