Do you eat well, exercise—or try to—and still struggle with food, weight and body image?
Do you have trouble with overeating, emotional eating, fatigue, mood, digestive concerns, maintaining or losing weight, or with other eating challenges? If so, you are likely missing out on a critical piece of nutrition. When you limit your focus to what to eat and how to move, you are only tapping into half your calorie burning potential. When it comes to successful nutrition and feeling good about your body, it may be time for a new approach. As Albert Einstein once said, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
“The first step to becoming a more peaceful person is to have the humility to admit that, in most cases, you’re creating your own emergencies…It’s helpful to keep reminding yourself and repeating the sentence ‘Life isn’t an emergency.” ~ Richard Carlson
Your mindset is the missing piece. To reach 100% of your calorie burning potential, you must explore “who you are as an eater.”
Everything that makes you uniquely you creates the eater that is uniquely you: your thoughts, beliefs, emotional state and how you are living your life. This is an essential, and mostly overlooked component, of metabolic functioning. We can change our metabolism without changing our food or exercise. How? When we bring attention to our mindset and personal growth, we catalyze change in our biology to lighten up both mentally and physically. Marc David, of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, refers to Metabolism as the “sum total of all the chemical reactions in the body, plus the sum total of all our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and experiences.”
Let’s explore three strategies to positively impact your mindset and begin taking advantage of your full calorie burning potential so you can bring more relaxation, awareness and pleasure into your eating… and into your life!
The Mindset of Relaxation
Are you a stressed eater or a relaxed eater?
When we are relaxed, we are in the ideal state for optimal absorption and assimilation of nutrients and calorie burning potential. Yet most of us are living under the opposite mindset: chronic low-level stress day after day. And despite eating “well” and exercising, we may struggle to maintain our health.
Our body’s Physiologic Stress Response is an autonomic action to slow down our metabolism. The human body is designed to react to stress by protecting us and producing cortisol, the stress hormone, which shunts blood away from our mid-section and into our limbs so that we can escape danger—whether it’s real or perceived (by your thoughts). Under this survival-based response, the body stores fat, weight and reduces digestion.
What can cause the physiologic stress response to turn on in our daily life?
- living a chaotic life, as if life is an emergency
- worrying about food (good vs. bad) and weight, every single day
- talking negatively about your own body or your “lack of self-control”
- restricting calories
- exercising excessively
- challenging relationships, career, nances
How can we turn it off?
- Slow down to slim down—both while eating and in how you live your life. When we are relaxed, our appetite is naturally regulated. Breathe.
- Take the time to notice what’s “weighing on” you in life and begin to address it.
- Stop skipping meals or eating meals at erratic times. The body loves rhythm. It’s relaxing.
- Notice where you are leaking energy. Learn to say no. Create more space to say “yes” to yourself, your own self-care and get your personal power back. Stop putting everybody and everything else before your nourishment —mentally and physically.
The Mindset of Awareness
Are you a distracted or an attentive eater?
When we are “awake at the plate” and giving full awareness to our meals, we are in the ideal state for natural appetite regulation, optimal absorption, and assimilation of nutrients and calorie burning potential.Once again, our body is hardwired to respond to our experiences. Cephalic Phase Digestive Response shows that digestion begins in the mind. It’s the pleasures of taste, aroma, satisfaction, and visual stimulation that we get from a meal. If you are a fast, distracted or stressed eater, you miss out on the 30-40% of total digestive response, which comes from giving full awareness to what you are eating. Both your brain and your gut connect to “register” that you’ve eaten.For many, it is our lack of awareness that has created what we believe to be an eating challenge. When we aren’t paying attention, we may “over-eat” or suffer from digestive distress. This is all too common in the busy world we live in. Becoming mindful of our dining experience and eating only what our body needs are keys to the proper absorption of nutrients.
How to be awake at the plate:
- Give full attention to your meal times. Stop multi- tasking: eating and driving, eating and working, eating and watching TV.
- Instead of worrying about portion sizes, become a mindful eater. Focus on slowing down, relaxing, chewing fully and noticing the taste,aromaand pleasure that you get from a meal.
- Make saying “grace” and giving gratitude for your meals an everyday habit, not just before your Thanksgiving dinner.
The Mindset of Pleasure
Are you a pleasurable eater or stressed eater?
A state of mind filled with pleasure and joy is the ideal state for optimal absorption and assimilation of nutrients and calorie burning potential. A lacking mindset produces a physiologic stress response. When we are not experiencing pleasure, comfort, and love in our lives, we are more prone to fill this emotional void with food. We may crave, overeat or feel like we are emotional eaters. This may make us believe that we have an eating challenge when in fact we need more vitamin P (Pleasure!) in our lives.
Food can be a symbolic substitute for joy. Most of us learned in infancy to equate food with love, comfort, and connection. As babies, we were held and fed, held and loved, held and comforted. Thus food = love and comfort. So it’s natural to go to food to fill up an emotional void. Perhaps you turn to food when you are bored, anxious or feeling down. If so, it is time to explore your inner psyche and address the emotional deficiencies you are feeling in your life.
When we lighten up in our mindset, we will lighten our body.
“Instead of focusing on what to eat, first teach yourself how to eat.”
~Marc David, Institute for the Psychology of Eating
Mind Body Nutrition shows us that there is much more to reaching our full calorie burning potential. When we tap into the quality of our mindset and who we are as eaters, we are liberated from feeling like food and exercise are our only saviors to maintaining or attaining a healthy weight. We can let go of dieting and deprivation. We can let go of strict meal plans. We can let go of success merely as pounds lost. And when we do, we have more time and energy to bring relaxation, awareness and pleasure into our meals and into our lives.