The act of eating is a universal phenomenon that all living creatures must engage in for the sake of survival. Humans have created a more complex relationship with food than our animal counterparts by creating rituals around eating like special gatherings for birthday parties, weddings or anniversaries.
Food is a central theme in many peoples lives, and while it can be a lot of fun to experiment and create something new, it can also become problematic for some in the pursuit of becoming healthier or even life-threatening for people suffering from disordered eating.
In regards to eating habits, a concept that has been gaining popularity recently is the practice of mindful eating. The concept of eating mindfully is about allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation by respecting your own inner wisdom.
It can help to consider your thoughts around food and to also use your intuition during consumption and being mindful by using all your senses in choosing to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body, acknowledging your responses to food without judgment, and becoming aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decisions to begin and end eating you can change your relationship to food.
The following article was written by a guest blogger who has experienced first hand what it was like to consider his own eating habits and make adjustments to his food consumption. Hopefully his experience will help you to consider your own relationship with food.
It’s Not What You Eat, It’s How You Eat
It’s easy to collect facts about food and nutrients and subsequently consider yourself a completely knowledgeable eater off that alone. Sure, it’s great to know your ideal ratio of protein to body weight. It’s great to know all kinds of jargon, or the difference between several types of fats. However, it’s the implicit knowledge and ideas that people tend to forget. I recently joined the list of people falling for this trap.
Being a moderately-athletic individual, I pay close attention to what I eat. I also love reading about eating habits that are believed to improve athletic performance. This led me to read a Bleacher Report article about the rising popularity of veganism in the NBA.
After reviewing the article, my primary takeaway was that professional athletes were looking to a plant-based diet to acquire more sustained energy. Obviously I don’t perform on a professional level but I reflected on this longer than most would. After all, these professionals are my idols. I’m not like them physically but I relate to their motivation to improve themselves.
What I read was interesting enough that I decided to try going at least vegetarian. I knew enough about macronutrients that I’d be able to calculate my diet and maintain my ideal body composition. Meanwhile, there was something fundamental I was forgetting and I didn’t even realize it. In my mind, I was prepared to change at will.
My first day of trying vegetarianism ironically began with me eating meat. I was so used to relying on meat for protein that I didn’t even remember I was supposed to omit it. I was able to avoid meat the rest of the day. I saw this as a challenge, but being the person I am, I was driven to meet my expectations.
That same day I went to my former boss Dr. Ayla Donlin for advice. Ayla is the director of the LifeFit Center @ The Beach, a health and fitness facility at Long Beach State University dedicated to community members aged 49 and over. She is a vegan and an incredibly fit individual, so naturally I looked to her for advice.
My conversation with her dispelled myths about vegans and vegetarians lacking protein and energy due to the omission of animal products. She told me of some documentaries to watch and I was on my way.
For the next few days I ate very little meat. It wasn’t fully removed from my diet but it only made up a small fraction of my intake. I consistently reached my targeted daily protein intake of at least 130 grams per day. I felt energized in a way that was exceeding my expectations. I didn’t feel the vegetarian/vegan empowerment that some people speak of, but I felt empowered as an individual making changes.
Everything was perfect until one day when I was leaving a Starbucks. As soon as I sat down in my car, suddenly I felt lightheaded. My heartbeat started to play irregularly and I started to experience some random anxiety. For a long moment I waited until this slowly eased away. After that, I drove home but what had happened was concerning enough that I later on looked into the symptoms.
It turns out this episode was consistent with iron deficiency. I was so confident that maintaining my protein and carbohydrate intake was enough, I forgot I was giving up a lot of iron by cutting chicken and beef. However, my main lesson from this wasn’t about the importance of iron. What I realized was that I changed my diet way too quickly and that contributed to my steep drop-off in iron more than my actual diet. If I had just eased into it, I probably wouldn’t have had such an alarming wake up call.
"This is my suggestion to anyone who wants to change the way they eat: Remember to take it easy on yourself and move at an appropriate pace.
At this point, I was conflicted in reflection of my short campaign. I questioned whether I should really change the way I eat. One part of me was convinced I was wasting my time. The other part of me was convinced I had to do this because quitting in the face of a setback is a bad look. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that my decisions shouldn’t be so polarized. I decided to just slow down and progress incrementally.
What I’m trying to convey in sharing this experience is that good health and nutrition isn’t limited to what you eat. It’s also how you eat. I didn’t consider that such a hard reversal from my previous eating habits would be rejected like this. Ultimately, I was reminded that moderation is fundamental. There is moderation measured by what you consume; I eat pizza, fast food and dessert and that’s totally okay as I keep these foods below excess. I stand by this.
There is also moderation measured by the rate of change you put your body through. This is what I overlooked. I’m still experimenting with different meals to make plants a more substantial share of my diet. I’ve just learned to approach it more gradually. This is my suggestion to anyone who wants to change the way they eat: Remember to take it easy on yourself and move at an appropriate pace.
Your body will appreciate it.
Thank you Dan for sharing your experience of changing your diet and how this created changes and challenges for you physically, but also helped you to more carefully consider your relationship with food.
I also enjoyed your advice to go slow when exploring changes to your health and wellness and to consult a professional when you're making these changes. I am hoping many of my readers who are considering or already starting new years resolutions will find your experience valuable in their own pursuit towards health and wellness. Thanks for being our guest blogger!
Have an experience to share about changes in your own health & wellness? Share it with us in the comments below!
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1/22/2018 02:48:34 pm
I am SO glad that I stumbled across this. I was advised to practice mindful eating by my psychiatrist, as a way to break my awful eating habits.
1/24/2018 04:14:22 pm
I'm so glad this guest post has been helpful for you, Lucent.. and it can for sure be tough to find the motivation and stamina to practice mindfulness. Best of luck with it!
1/23/2018 01:22:58 pm
great, honest article. I'm all about small, sustainable steps when changing anything. Big changes throw us off balance one way or another and they are not sustainable.
1/24/2018 04:36:38 pm
Yes, I completely agree Ruxandra! I'm glad you appreciate the article written by my guest blogger this week. Thanks for stopping by the blog.
1/24/2018 12:45:31 am
I have really been considering a pescatarian diet! This gave me great insight on your journey and has inspired me to try it out!!
1/24/2018 04:37:11 pm
All the best in your wellness journey, Ashli. I hope it goes really well for you!
Really great article! I went through this process when I was considering becoming a vegan. I decided not to fully transition and start by removing beef and pork from my diet.Now, I mostly eat chicken and seafood. It's so important to be gradual with this process. Thanks for pointing it out!
1/24/2018 04:38:04 pm
Thank you for sharing your own experience with modifying your diet, Lauren. A gradual change seems like the way to go!
1/24/2018 04:39:33 pm
I'm glad to hear you found this article interesting, Kelly. All the best on expanding your palate and finding changes that work for you.
1/24/2018 08:52:05 am
Great article!! I need to be mindful of how I eat and the crap I put in my body. Thanx for this.
1/24/2018 04:40:01 pm
Yes, it can be so helpful to be more mindful about our nutrition intake. All the best, Iva!
1/24/2018 08:52:51 am
Very interesting! I've been doing a lot of soul searching about my current diet and the changes that need to be made. Will definitely take this article into consideration as part of those changes!
1/24/2018 04:41:29 pm
Glad that the experience shared in this article could be helpful with your own diet changes. All the best in this endeavour, Dianne!
1/24/2018 04:43:22 pm
Thank you so much for sharing this article, Amara. I hope it will be helpful for your Aunt!
1/24/2018 10:22:35 am
I am all about making sustainable lifestyle changes rather than dieting. I eased into veganism and now it is super easy to maintain. I still make exceptions once in a while, but it doesn't feel like a diet or a chore. And, I am a lot more intentional about how and what I eat.
1/24/2018 04:45:22 pm
Your experience with changing your eating habits in a sustainable way is very inspirational.. thank you for sharing, Jessica. It sounds like it has been a natural and gradual change for you that has worked well.
1/24/2018 04:45:55 pm
Great ideas, Kaitlyn. Keep going! All the best in your efforts for a healthier diet. :)
This is so interesting about getting light headed and anxious. I struggle with any time my hormones or blood sugar, anything really, change I have issues with it. Usually those symptoms. I need to look into that a little more. Thank you so much for sharing this!
1/24/2018 04:50:20 pm
Definitely a good idea to consult with a nutritionist or other health professional if you are experiencing health-related concerns like these. All the best, Wendy!
1/24/2018 04:51:39 pm
For sure, completely agree with you, Chels!
1/24/2018 05:08:39 pm
Glad to hear this article was useful for you, Becky. All the best in exploring changes you in own eating habits.
1/24/2018 05:09:21 pm
You're very welcome, Alexa! I'm glad that Dan was able to share his experience and that it was informative for you to read about.
1/24/2018 05:28:18 pm
Great advice, Bianca. I totally agree that moderation is key, too.. and can be applied to most things in life. Thanks for stopping by the blog!
1/25/2018 11:21:02 am
You're definitely not alone with having difficult habits to break, Amy. And sometimes we do need some down time. Sometimes it's about taking a small step towards a healthier lifestyle. All the best!
1/25/2018 11:22:51 am
Yes, I'm so glad you agree, Elise! It can be a really interesting exercise to start becoming more mindful of how we feel when we eat rather than just being passive and not thinking twice about it.
I promise you right before I found this article I said to myself I will try to drink my root beer soda only once a month. I've always like it, but when I was expecting, I had it everyday. It's almost 7 years later and it was still the same until this past November (maybe 2-3 time a month). I know it's a big cause of my weight gain and I know the other issues it can cause. But, this article is great and right on time. Thanks so much for sharing.
1/25/2018 11:23:55 am
It sounds like you are ready to start making some changes in your life, Tavana. I'm glad the experiences shared in this article have been motivating for you, too. Best of luck!
1/24/2018 06:10:48 pm
I find cutting out meat to have similar results and always thought this was a result of not eating meat but you’re probably right, it’s the result of a drastic change to diet. What do you (the guest) eat to maintain a protein intake of 130 on a veg diet? That seems like a really high number and I’m impressed. Great read.
1/24/2018 07:38:44 pm
Hi Jamie! Thank you for your thoughts and to answer your question, I used a variety of non-meat sources. Most of it comes from whole grains, legumes and eggs with snacks like greek yogurt, peanut butter, milk and protein bars to fill in the rest. Here is an example of a protein shake I came up with:
1/25/2018 11:25:07 am
For sure, it's important to create a habit of being mindful in life and mindful eating is just one activity we can focus more on to create a healthier perspective in life. Thanks for your comment, Danie!
3/24/2018 01:30:47 am
Hi! I love your blog! Thank you for sharing this Dan. This is truly enlightening. I'd been struggling with my diet for the past three years. There were periods when I was so inspired to exercise and all but then there were times when I didn't care at all. It was like I was yo-yo dieting. I've read a few articles about how it can be bad for my health and so I'm still experimenting on what would work for me. Thank you for sharing this!
3/25/2018 01:19:16 am
I'm glad to hear you're experimenting Veronica! Finding the right diet for ourselves is tricky because everyone's body is so different. I'm still working on what is best myself but I'm gradually getting better. Let's look forward to every ounce of progress!
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