Food for Thought - Paying Attention to What We Eat
Back when I started this blog on HealthCentral some seven years ago, I regularly wrote on the mental health benefits of eating healthy. I even used to post recipes. We are what we eat. All the food we eat is brain food, for good or for bad. We really need to be smart about this.
But, of course, there were a zillion other things to write about. The eating healthy posts grew further and farther between, then disappeared altogether. I think it’s been a good four years since I’ve posted on the topic. Time to get back with the program ...
Okay, here is where I stand: I’m not an advocate of any special diet, nor am I
an enemy of whole classes of food. What I am for is that we can all endeavor to eat a little bit healthier than we are eating right now. I also recognize how difficult this may be. At the same time, it’s very important to acknowledge that our illness is extremely opportunistic, one that takes no prisoners. We really need to be vigilant about the food we eat.
Here are a few simple guidelines I have come up with, based on my own experiences:
- Do as much of your own food preparation and cooking as you can. Whatever you make at home is bound to be healthier than restaurant food, even if it’s the same dish. It’s amazing how much of the bad stuff you can cut back on when you control what goes into your meals.
- Try to cook from scratch, using quality ingredients. Most of the stuff you get in cans and boxes is industrialized sugar and salt and fat with a picture of food on the packaging. Cooking from scratch really doesn’t take much longer than nuking so-called convenience food. It just seems that way.
- Keep your kitchen well-stocked, with quality food. When you reach for something to satisfy a food craving, it’s better to have say mixed nuts on hand than Cheetos.
- It’s okay to indulge. But we must pay close regard to the “time and place” element of indulging.
- Plan ahead. I cannot emphasize how important this is. The last thing you want to do is figure out what you should be eating for dinner when you are starving and everything on hand is in the freezer. Or that you suddenly find yourself ravenous surrounded by nothing but fast food joints.
- Establish good routines. You really don’t want to be skipping meals only to find yourself needing to satisfy an insatiable craving a few hours later in front of a donut shop,
- Practice mindfulness. Thus - when you eat, just eat. It’s amazing how thoughtless we are with regard to what goes into our mouths. Pay attention to each mouthful. If the food is good, the experience will be incredible. If the food is bad, a few key realizations may start happening.
- Practice mindfulness, this time in regard to what you think and say. Our rationalizations tend to be fodder for comedy writers. Making excuses is a perfectly natural, but we do need to recognize when this is happening.
- Be especially mindful when your emotions take over. Depression, mania, anxiety, and stress, together with no end of personal stuff all play hell with our personal relationship to food. Pay attention to what may be feeding that craving for a quart of Ben and Jerry’s.
- Find support. A friend or partner who observes good eating can do wonders for you.
- Skip the guilt trips. We all screw up. We stray. We have setbacks. Too often, we give up when this happens. Simple rule: Fall down seven times, get up eight.
- Watch out for miracle diets and miracle cures. One magic ingredient won’t change a thing.
- Avoid extremes. You may have just read that meat or gluten or carbs are bad for you. Fine. But don’t suddenly start eliminating whole food groups based on one thing you happened to have read on the internet. An extreme diet may turn out to be the right decision for you, but only after you have done your own extensive research.
- Set realistic goals: You may want to throw away your scale. We are talking about establishing good routines and practices that will serve you through long and healthy life, not losing 50 pounds in 12 weeks.
Eat well, live well ...