This is not the time for more rules, but rather the time to be gentle and tend to yourself.
You may have noticed a gentler approach to eating and nutrition lately. I’ve covered why we reach for certain sugary/starchy foods due to stress. I’ve also discussed eating with our heads and hearts as opposed to our stomachs. There are important physiological reasons why these food cravings kick in – as a response to hormone levels and hormone communication with our reactions. Maybe you are taking an intuitive approach to eating – to become more aware of what you want, and that it is okay to enjoy all types of foods. Or perhaps you’ve completely shifted your habits now working from home, cooking and substituting ingredients as much as possible, and sharing meals at the table. Whatever the instance, what you are eating is likely not normal for you. But nothing about this is normal, is it?
I am going to outline a few key points to Gentle Nutrition and the practice of balancing honoring food cravings and honoring health as a priority. It is the concept of eating with a health focus, but gently. Recognizing that maybe you don’t have fresh vegetables on every plate, but there is a plant food and that is what matters. It could be baked apple chips or canned green beans instead of fresh, but it’s something.
Recognize that your food relationship is impacted by many factors right now.
•The fluctuation between a VERY full pantry (to avoid grocery shopping often) to a seemingly empty pantry with feelings of inaccessibility.
•Proximity to food at this time (work station at kitchen table/home all hours of the day)
•Baking as an activity which can lead to higher than normal access to sugary foods.
•Less time for mindful meals (between working from home, activities with kids) may lead to standing and eating, long breaks between eating periods and feelings of very hungry.
•Boredom may lead to eating as “something to do”.
Understand your body’s personal hunger cues
•Are you eating with your head, your heart or your stomach?
• What are your body’s hunger signals?
• What are your emotional hunger triggers?
When we feel like eating because we are anxious, bored, or depressed say to yourself “It’s all right to eat. But first, I will find out what I am feeling.”
Eat regularly and eat enough
•Meal Planning from a place of self-care with a loosely structured meal plan. This could be wanting a meatless day, a heart healthy fish day, and mostly plants on the plate. Because you deserve to be taken care of. In a similar way we plan for our children to eat, we must have a loose structure for ourselves.
•Eating regularly can maintain a sense of normalcy.
•Maintains blood sugars to avoid spikes and pantry raids.
•Eating less than we need right now could place more stress on our bodies.
Connect more deeply with your food and your feelings of gratitude
•Consider the people involved in the meal from beginning to end – the delivery people, the grocery employees, foodservice workers and those who have lost jobs.
•Show gratitude to why it is on your plate. That you were able to purchase food, you took the energy and love to prep the food.
•Be mindful of the ingredients on your plate, and how each makes you feel – choosing foods that make you feel energized and happy.
This is just a start on the path to gentle nutrition, but first step in considering all aspects of food and how we can make choices that satisfy our emotional and physical hunger right now. Give yourself a break. There is enough going on right now to overwhelm us, and we do not need to add stress about “perfect” food into the mix.
“Negative thoughts about yourself and your body are way more unhealthy than anything you can eat and any amount of not exercising.” – Kelsey Wells