Diet and the Mind

by George

Following on from last week’s practical post on breathing, I thought I’d add to this practicality by talking about food. Now I’m no expert and certainly am not a nutritionist, but I am very sensitive to what foods I put in my body and am clear about the effects certain foods have on my ability to be mentally healthy. In this article I’ll be sharing some of my own findings with you and if, like me, you’re committed to being more mindful, focused and mentally active on a day-to-day basis, I invite you to experiment yourself by either introducing or removing certain foods from your diet and seeing what the effects are.

Much of the advice in this article is already widespread knowledge, but that being said, why then do we continue to eat foods that do not help us feel good on a regular basis? Why do many of us continue to make poor choices where diet is concerned? I’ll also be talking about the inherent link between food and self-esteem, and what to do to kick any bad food habits for good.

Let’s start with caffeine. This is first on my list because it’s been one of the hardest for me to let go of. I love tea and especially coffee, but as I mentioned earlier, am particularly sensitive to certain foods and caffeine just doesn’t really agree with me. Even a little bit can make me feel anxious, but for years I’ve been putting off giving it up. I’ve told myself I’m weak, or should be able to have it, and many other silly things. But this year I’ve finally made a decision for my own health and well-being and have stopped drinking it, and the results so far have been great. Less unnecessary anxiety, a calmer state of mind and an easier time focusing. If you’re like me and are sensitive to caffeine, either limit your intake or give it up entirely, otherwise it will play havoc with your ability to simply be and stay calm in the present moment.

Sugar is next on the list, and this is a big one. Sugar is everywhere in our diets! Next time you go food shopping, have a look at the ingredients in the stuff you normally buy. I guarantee you much of it will contain sugar you probably didn’t even know about. Cereals, bread, most sauces, any ready meals, baked beans… I could go on. Then there are the obvious sweets, cakes and chocolate. Now I don’t know about you, but too much sugar for me is a minefield for mindfulness. A little bit is OK, but any more than that leads to a brief sugar rush followed by a long, inevitable crash. In this state focusing the mind is much more difficult and it is easy to just space out. The problem with sugar is that it’s highly addictive, and lessening your intake has to be done gradually. The results are totally worth it though – a clearer mind, more energy and better skin to name just a few! Check out the video at the bottom of this article about a family who gave up sugar for a month and their results if you’d like to know more.

Next on the list are carby, processed foods. I’m talking about things like bread, pasta and cereals. How do you feel after eating a big bowl of pasta? Within an hour or so I feel like taking a nap! Foods such as these may be cheap and readily available, but they tend to lead to a sharp spike in your blood sugar levels that can quickly leave you feeling tired, and much as with refined sugar, unable to focus properly. Try and replace carby foods with foods high in protein, fibre and healthy fats such as chicken, fish, nuts, as well as most fruit and vegetables, as well as vegan sources such as tofu.

Last on the ‘avoid or limit’ list is alcohol. Now we all know the effects of drinking too much alcohol and how your mind becomes when you have too much! I’m not suggesting cutting alcohol out completely, after all for many people this is a nice way to relax after a busy week and an important part of social interactions. Just make sure that you stay in control of your alcohol consumption, and not the other way around. If you feel like you need a drink or two to get you through each day, this is when it becomes a form of dependence. You want to be free around food and drink not feeling like you ‘need’ anything to get you through the day, whether it be coffee, alcohol or anything else other than what you actually need.

What to put in your body instead of these things is, like I mentioned earlier, already common knowledge to most people. Focus on a diet rich in natural, unprocessed foods – foods that come directly from nature. A diet high in natural protein, healthy fats and lots of fruit and vegetables will not only have you feeling ten times better, but your body will also be ten times healthier. You’ll feel fuller for longer and will have fewer cravings and urges to snack out on unhealthy stuff. You’ll also find it much easier to be mindful and aware on a moment-by-moment basis when your body isn’t buzzed up on sugar and stimulants and is given what it actually wants and needs. You’ll have more energy and will feel much better on all levels – physically, mentally and possibly even emotionally.

Like I mentioned earlier, however, the majority of people already know this. The question is, then, why do so many of us continuously make poor choices food-wise when we really know better? Money can of course be a factor – it’s somewhat ironic that the least healthy, most processed and modified foods tend to be the cheapest – but in my experience the issue can lie at a deeper level than just money. Consistently eating poorly can be a telltale sign of a lack of self-care or respect for yourself. Of course, there are other reasons too – convenience, laziness, or just simple habit. Whatever the reasons are, the key here lies in making a decision – much as I did with caffeine – to stop any self-sabotaging behaviour where food is concerned and make a real commitment to a healthier, happier you. If you don’t feel that you are able to limit your consumption of unhealthy foods to a healthy level, then cut them out completely. This is part of a larger commitment to yourself where you choose to love and honour who you really are rather than continue to harm yourself in any way. This takes effort and willpower, but will open you up to a whole new life where you’re happier, healthier and free.

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Christina

    Wise words here George! x

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