By Rhiannon Lambert
Everyone has a unique and special relationship with food. It can be a powerful thing when used effectively for mind and body but, if abused, it can also be detrimental to our health. Food should never be a source of guilt and exercise should never be about counteracting what we ate earlier or punishing ourselves for eating. We all need food to sustain ourselves, and even if we indulge at times, it doesn’t mean we should feel bad or see it as any kind of weakness – food is to be enjoyed! The key to taking any advice on healthy eating and nutrition is to remain open-minded. Being too rigid, restrictive or strict about nutritious eating can cause problems.
In an ever-demanding and increasingly stressful world, the mindfulness boom has never been more important. This is something I work on with every single one of my clients because it’s at the very core of a healthy body. Ordinary life often means we feel stressed. Our minds whizz away tackling difficult, confusing emotions or work and family pressures, and at times it feels as if we don’t really know how to deal with them. We are often so distracted by what’s going on around us that we are no longer truly present in the world in which we live and we miss out on the things that are most important to us. But that’s really not how it has to be!
Our nutrition deserves at least equal thought and consideration as the many chores we complete each day. I admit this is a challenge – I too have to stop myself from rushing my food while working at my desk, or when I’ve just walked through the door at the end of the day. I always remind my clients that the food we eat has to undergo a complex biological process in the body, which takes time and involves a lot more interactions than a simple mouth-to-stomach pathway. Even if you consume the healthiest of diets, if your digestion isn’t working optimally, any nutrition won’t be put to good use and sadly you won’t see all the potential benefits. And good digestion starts with taking the time to eat properly and mindfully.
Mindful eating can also help to combat and understand emotional eating. Every day I work with clients suffering from various forms of eating distress, so I know exactly how food is often intertwined with our emotions; sadness often makes us eat less but more commonly it causes us to overeat items that are high in fat and sugar, such as chocolate and cakes, which we all commonly view as comfort foods. But you do not need to label yourself as an emotional eater to emotionally eat. For some reason, we are conditioned to crave positive reinforcement when we do something well, and there’s a huge temptation to reward ourselves with – often unhealthy – food. They say food is the most-used drug for anxiety but I want you to see food as a way to fuel your body properly so that you can feel good, look good, and live your life to the fullest.
Being more aware of whether or not you are falling into mindless eating traps, restrictive dieting cycles, bingeing, guilt and shame or any black-and-white thinking will enable you to proactively make changes to these thought processes. It won’t happen overnight but learning to eat mindfully is one part of the puzzle that can be solved.
Rhiannon Lambert is a Nutritionist specialising in weight management, eating disorders and sports nutrition. She is the founder of Rhitrition, a leading Harley Street private clinic and author of Re-Nourish: A Simple Way To Eat Well.