I recently embarked upon my first ever cleanse and it was an eye opening experience. Not only did I give my body a chance to rid itself of toxins clogging up my system, I learned a lot about my eating habits. My main takeaway: 3/4 of my meals are eaten on the run or while I am busy doing something else and 1/2 of those meals are eaten under some sort of work stress duress which means most of my days I am not feeling completely nourished. Before the cleanse, I thought that I did a pretty good job being a healthy eater: I like most vegetables, enjoy fruit, pay attention to protein when I can, and keep the chips to a reasonable daily allowance. However, during the cleanse I learned that I have a really hard time taking a break from the my daily to-do list in order to feed myself nutritious foods in a mindful manner. I just eat so I am not hungry anymore and can keep moving and getting things done.
While this "never stop" attitude may allow me check things off my to-do list, at the end of the day, I find myself feeling like I am never fully nourished. I feel hungry, a little empty, and craving whatever can be covered in cheese...and maybe the rest of that dark chocolate bar tucked away in my treat drawer.
As it turns out there is some science behind these night-time empty belly feelings I get when I don't give myself time to eat throughout the day. According to the Health Coach Institute, "Eating during stress will generally lead to digestive upset, decreased nutrient assimilation, and unwanted fat storage, which leads to weight gain". They go on to say, "that it is scientifically impossible for the body to release weight or heal when it is under a stress response" (HCI).
This information has become a motivating factor for me to be more mindful about not just what I eat but how I eat. I want to give my body the nutrients and the time it needs to function at its best. If I am eating while working, grabbing a quick bite between events, or eating on the run, I know I am eating during stress. If I am stressed, my body is busy trying to calm down my nerves and is not able to put its resources toward helping me digest my food. As a result, I am not getting all the nutrients I need, often feel bloated, and stay hungry which can lead to poor food choices at night.
During my cleanse, I was more conscious about taking time to eat my meals so that I could fully feel how the foods I was eating felt in my body. What I noticed was that if I paid more attention to the food I was eating, I felt more nourished not only in that moment but also at the end of the day which mean that I had less cravings for junk food.
Now that I am done with the cleanse, it is my goal to continue to practice mindful eating. One way I have been doing this is by doing a quick 1-2 minute mindfulness stress check before each meal. The goal is that if I am feeling stressed on any level, I want to acknowledge that stress, feel it, then let it go so that my body is eating not in a state of unconscious stress but rather in a state of peace and calm.
Before I eat, I ask myself: 1) How am I feeling? Great? Good? A Little Stressed? Definitely Stressed? Totally Stressed?
2) If I am feeling great, I say a quick gratitude prayer for my delicious meal and send myself and my loved ones some love thoughts.
3) If I am feeling any version of stress, I take a minute to honor my feelings and investigate why I might be feeling this stress.
Am I feeling angry, guilty, tense, full, secure, proud, relaxed, rested, loved, other?
Which feeling is the strongest?
What do I need?
Do I need support?
I then let myself flow with the feelings. If they are especially strong, eventually, they will subside and I can feel a little more peace within the sanctuary of my body. This too shall pass.
I end with a prayer of gratitude.
I have found that by taking just a minute to disrupt my patterns of processing daily stress and being conscious of what I am feeling BEFORE I eat, I can minimize some of the stress I am feeling. I therefore, give my body the opportunity to efficiently do its job of digesting and absorbing important nutrients which means I can tackle my to-do list with more energy and gusto! I also feel like I have honored my body for just a moment during the day which allows me to show a bit more love and kindness to those I meet along my way.