This post is by Tony Federico, Natural Force’s VP of Marketing. He likes to tell stories and occasionally goes off on tangents, but we think you’ll enjoy reading!
Are you tired of jumping from one diet to another?
Have you given up on healthful eating all together?
If you said “yes” to either of the above, I can’t blame you.
It’s rough out there, and learning how to navigate a grocery store can feel like a full-time job.
But what if I told you that there was a way to cut through the confusion and get right to the meat (and vegetables) of the matter?
It might sound too good to be true, but there is a way.
It’s called mindful eating, but unlike the gimmicks and quick fixes however, it will take some work, but once you get started, we think you’ll find that it comes naturally.
“Everything I eat has been proved by some doctor or other to be a deadly poison, and everything I don’t eat has been proved to be indispensable for life. But I go marching on.”
–George Bernard Shaw
While one headline reads “Eggs are healthy” the next one says “Eggs are linked to cancer”. According to one expert, a plant-based diet, devoid of any and all animal products is the key to ultimate health while according to another, everything’s OK… as long as it’s in moderation.
Stricken with anxiety over the eggs, butter, or fruit, that was just on your plate, you dutifully click away, consuming page after page from the endless buffet of health information offered up 24/7 in print and online.
You have a sneaking suspicion that you’re being played, but you just can’t help it. The Big Food moguls and Big Nutrition diet gurus are very good at what they do.
Nursing your fears and stoking your self-doubt, they convince you that there’s a problem, and that only they can solve it. Money, time, and energy are spent and, just when you think you’ve figured “it” out, they hit you with a new diet, a new food, or a new nutrient that you absolutely need, or need to avoid.
The Status Quo
In response to the mixed messages and incessant marketing of the Big Food and Big Nutrition media machine, most people just pick a side.
Based on the quarterly profits of companies like McDonald’s, buying into Big Food is certainly the most popular option. It generally entails dismissing information about the relationship between diet and health, relying instead on that uncle who lived to 100 smoking cigars and drinking whiskey every day.
On the other side, you have smaller, but more devoted contingent dedicated to upholding the nutritional virtues of society writ large. These passionate dietary devotees present a stark contrast to the Big Food fans. Instead of dismissing the link between food and health, they believe that diet is the fix for everything from belly fat to cancer.
Compelling stories of miraculous transformations and remissions abound, but if you look more closely, you’ll see that dramatic success is proportionally rare, and while people may generally benefit from dietary interventions, just about any diet can be effective in the short term.
So between the choices of not caring at all, and caring too much, what is there?
Believe it or not, but there is a third option to the dietary dichotomy.
It is the “grey” area that lives between “black and white”, but before you can get there, you have to clean up your media “diet”.
To do this, experiment with avoiding network TV, popular print magazines (even the fitness related ones), and other sources of media indoctrination for a couple weeks.
(Note: Cutting the cord might sound tough, but you don’t have to miss out on your favorite shows to do this! VOD services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu Plus allow for selective media consumption, which will directly support your efforts in becoming a selective food consumer as well.)
Once you’ve removed or significantly reduced your exposure to manipulative media outlets, you can then start the next step, cultivating an essential tool for navigating the grey area.
Like a Google map for your inner being, mindfulness is an internal checking-in process that lets you know exactly where you are in this present moment.
You could make it as simple as sitting on the floor and taking 10 deep breaths, or you could make it as complicated as taking part in a far off yoga retreat, but whatever you do, the only thing that matters is that you do it.
If you discover that you dislike yoga, give tai-chi a try, and if you can’t stand that, go for a run or take up a musical instrument. Keep exploring until you find a mindfulness practice that you personally connect with, and that is meaningful to you.
Remember that the benefits proffered up by a mindfulness routine can be elusive at first, but they reward time, practice and intention.
You might be wondering what all of this has to do with diet, but in order to really understand the connection, you have to experience it.
Let’s take a few moments to do just that…
Become a Mindful Eater
Think about what you just experienced. The clarity, peace, and relaxation only a few minutes and a few deep breaths provided.
Imagine if you started to bring this powerful internal force of mindfulness to other areas of your life.
Take a few, deep, mindful breaths before your next meal and you might find that you’re more in touch with internal cues like hunger and thirst.
Without being told which foods are supposed to make you feel happy, you may also start to define those relationships yourself.
If you eat something that makes you feel good, you notice and appreciate that.
If you eat something that makes you feel bad, you notice and appreciate that too.
Both comfortable and uncomfortable feelings are opportunities for learning, and each moment presents a new opportunity.
If you’re finding difficulty with negative self talk, go back to your breathing exercises.
Ingrained habits have a survival instinct, and will fight to remain present in your mind, but if you remain calm and centered, they will eventually fade away.
What Comes Next
Unlike a 3-day detox, a 7-day cleanse, or a 30-day diet, mindful eating is a lifetime practice.
It is a journey that may traverse any number of dietary changes and that will take you places you never imagined or anticipated.
It requires trusting your inner compass despite doubts, detractors, and distractions.
You might lose your way from time to time, but that’s ok too.
The great thing about mindfulness is that it’s always there for you, and no matter how far off the path you may go, it will always lead you back.