The most significant improvement in how I feel didn’t come from a pill or a potion. Nor did it stem from a fancy diet plan—although it did involve changing my eating habits.
The big shift occurred when I started applying principles I learned through Yoga and meditation to my food choices. Slowing down and considering what I put in my mouth made a world of difference.
Here are five major changes I made to achieve mindful eating, which you can use to make an impact in your life, too.
I added more variety to my diet
One change I made due to mindful eating was adding a wider variety of foods into my diet. Before, my typical salad contained the standard lettuce, a bit of red cabbage and shaved carrot, perhaps a radish or two.
Eating mindfully made me recognize the importance of getting a wider variety of phytonutrients and antioxidants in my daily diet. As such, I began experimenting with new and exotic plant-based foods. Today, my salads might include the basics, along with shaved jicama, spicy dried chickpeas, broccolini and even foraged foods like chickweed and wild mustard.
I quit some bad habits
Mindful eating also helped me rein in some bad habits before they could destroy my life. One significant change I made was eliminating alcohol. I used to like to tip one back as much as the next person, and I’d be a liar if I said that the words, “I need a drink,” never crossed my lips on a trying day.
However, mindfulness tuned me into the way that drinking made me feel. Even though I intentionally paid attention while eating solid foods, the practice spilled over into everything else I consumed. I noticed that my anxiety levels went through the roof the morning after having one too many. That observation made me take note of my reaction to even one beverage—and yes, it made me feel more panicky the moment the numbing effects wore off.
If you’d previously told me to cut back on my consumption, I probably would’ve told you I didn’t have a problem. After all, I wasn’t missing work or getting DUIs. Nonetheless, I’m forever grateful that mindfulness made me recognize the psychological effects of alcohol—I’m much happier and healthier sipping herbal tea.
I started eating more sustainably
What is sustainable eating? It encompasses many dimensions, but it all boils down to making food choices that are kinder to the planet.
One change I made was shifting away from eating meat. Meat and dairy production accounts for nearly 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Many scientists believe humans must alter their diets to include less beef and pork to protect planetary health.
Fortunately, it isn’t challenging to find sufficient protein from other sources. Seafood is rich in the macronutrient, and also contains omega-3 fatty acids, along with the vitamins A, D and B-complex. Nuts and seeds provide valuable selenium and magnesium, which are vital minerals for protecting neurological health and improving your mood.
Shifting away from meat consumption doesn’t only benefit the planet’s health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), processed meats qualify as carcinogens, and red meat is probable. Both substances can increase your colorectal cancer risk significantly.
Another way I made my diet more sustainable was by adding more fresh fruits and vegetables from my garden and local farmers’ markets. During the past year’s quarantines, I mastered the art of saving my seeds from the produce I’d buy and nurturing them into new plants. As a result, I have several containers of peppers, beans and tomatoes. Best of all, the only money I spent at the nursery was on potting soil.
For anything I can’t grow myself, it’s off to the farmers’ market. Visiting a farmers’ market benefits my health and the health of the planet. Fruits and vegetables begin to lose their nutrients as soon as three days after harvest, and transporting them produces considerable carbon emissions. By buying local, I reduce the need for shipping while enjoying a head of lettuce that’s so fresh, my vendor may have plucked it from the ground yesterday.
This shift occurred because I began reflecting more on where my food came from and the consequences of indulging. I’ve always cared about the natural world, and the climate is in crisis. If changing my diet habits can combat the problem while making me healthier, I consider that the ultimate win-win.
I became quite the kitchen winch
Mindful eating also helped me spice up my diet and even my morning teas. I’ve been fascinated with herbs for a long time, so I invested in a teapot with an infuser and started experimenting with a variety of anti-inflammatory and calming combinations like the following:
- Turmeric: This root herb contains curcumin, a potent anti-inflammatory. I also add a dash of black pepper to increase the bioavailability of this substance.
- Ginger: In Ayurvedic medicine, this root herb is considered part of the healing trilogy, along with black and long peppers. It’s fabulous for overall digestion.
- Passionflower: This herb has a longstanding reputation for decreasing anxiety.
- Chamomile: This anti-anxiety herb is best known for bedtime use, but I find it gently calming during the day.
- Valerian: This herb is noted for helping you fall asleep, but you have to let it build up in your body for maximum impact. I add a touch to my daily brew and supplement this with individual cups on restless nights.
I adore my windowsill herb garden, and it didn’t take much effort to get some to sprout roots and add to my container collection. All I did was place them in a glass of water, changing it every few days.
A bit of fresh basil and oregano can elevate your standard pizza into something that tastes like it came from a wood-fired gourmet restaurant!
I stopped giving fad diets a second glance
Perhaps the most significant personal benefit of more mindful eating was breaking my obsession with fad diets. I still read all the books to learn the purported science—but I no longer feel the need to toss out everything in my pantry.
Focusing on each meal instead of adopting the mindset of, “I can never eat a bowl of carb-laden pasta again” is, frankly, liberating AF. I never feel deprived anymore.
Instead of thinking, “I can’t have French fries because they’re not on my diet plan,” I check in with my body. How am I feeling? What have my activity levels been like, and how famished am I? If a quick carb injection or a rare “treat” is what I need, I indulge.
Mindful eating helps you lose weight because you focus more on enjoying what you’re eating, instead of mentally dwelling in a bleak, donut-less future. You can learn the technique by practicing eating a piece of chocolate slowly, concentrating on the flavour and texture on your tongue.
At mealtime, put down your fork on occasion and savour each bite. Try to avoid eating at your work desk—you pay more attention to your body’s cues that you’re full when you focus on your dinner.
Mindful eating helped me transform my diet and my life in all the glorious ways listed above. What can this practice do for you? Let us know what you think in the Comments section below.
image 1: Pixabay; image 2: Pixabay