Can connecting with our food help us achieve our goals and improve our health?
Everything on this planet is connected in someway or other, but in modern day society with our busy lives and disconnection from nature many of those connections are forgotten or weakened.
We go through life at such a fast pace, barely giving thought to our surroundings, our history, our biology. How many times have you driven home from work and not remembered the journey home? How often do you sit in front of the TV and eat your dinner paying no attention to the taste or content of anything on the plate.
Being more mindful of our surroundings including our food, helps us connect with our environment as well as our mind and body. These connections are fundamental to good physical and mental health and could help us achieve many of our body, work, life goals.
Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing on the present moment - slowing down - raising awareness of what you can see, smell, hear, feelings, emotions.
Mindful Eating in simple terms is paying more attention to what you consume, its content, its origin, its provision, the senses and feelings it creates.
Food as Fuel
Somewhere along the way we have forgotten the fundamental purpose of food - as fuel. Our bodies need the nutrients and energy we get from fuel for virtually every process. Without energy we will die, without the right nutrients we will suffer poor health, yet this importance seems to slip our mind and food seems to have become a pleasurable and / or social event.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that you shouldn't get pleasure from food as it is important to take pleasure from the simple things in life. However, we should not be forgetting our needs and the functions they perform. Being more mindful of the need for that food.
The food we eat contains potential energy – that food has the potential to be converted to provide energy. A calorie is a common measure used for this potential energy in food. To try to simplify it, we consume food, our bodies then burn that food (digest / process), extracting energy / heat from that process.
In theory, your body's energy supplies are like a burning fire, enough fuel (calories) is needed to keep the fire burning. If you don't put fuel on the fire or not enough fuel your fire may go out or burn much lower effecting your energy levels. Different fuels burn at different paces, for example coal generally burns slower than wood. The same works in our body and the type of fuel also makes a difference to your energy levels.
We are told that carbohydrates are our main energy supply but carbohydrates are more like the fire starter. Carbohydrates act like the kindling on a fire, lighting and burning quickly to get the fire going, they give us quick energy.
If you consume too much processed foods and refined carbohydrates it is like running a fire on fire starters, quick rushes of energy, followed by the dips as our insulin response removes excess glucose. To keep the fire burning steadily Fats, Proteins and fibre are needed like slower burning logs or coal.
The only time we really think about food as fuel is if we are dieting - calorie counting, but this is often just a figure and we are rarely thinking about what that figure means and what that figure should be made up of.