Forget physical appearance. Diet has a profound impact on how we *feel*, sleep, and live our lives.
Yikes. One of the most confusing topics in human history. Some gall I have, to add my two cents…
As much as this is about food, this is about something deeper. This is an opportunity to understand desire, and recognize the power you have to put a leash on it. You can build this power simply by paying deeper attention to what you eat, and why. Two birds (physical and mental wellbeing) one stone. This perspective can be applied universally in life to anything that manipulates you. Diet just happens to be an excellent starting place – a true “object of mindfulness” that applies to all humanity, as explained by Dr. Judson Brewer, below.
An obvious fact: humans need food to live. Thousands of years ago this posed a real problem for us… humans might go days or weeks without a solid meal. In a worst case scenario, they would starve or eat the wrong food and die.
How lucky we are, today? It is ridiculous that most of us can walk into a grocery story and within moments have wonderful, high quality food in our hands. This is truly miraculous.
Unfortunately we have adapted to this great treasure. We can easily buy more than we need. We can easily bias toward unhealthy vs healthy. And rather than eating purely what we need to maintain homeostasis, we can snack for pleasure all day long. We might not even be hungry, but if we are tempted with the right food at the right time, how can we resist?
I love eating for pleasure as much as anyone. Pizza. Ice cream. Most indulgent food, I truly enjoy. I have zero wish for anyone to ever give this up. But I deeply value my ability to make this an exception, not a rule, and feel wonderful about the clarity and smooth energy I’ve found maintaining a simple (and very enjoyable) diet the majority of the time. I cherish the strength to watch craving waves come and go, not only about food, but broadly. Eventually the waves turn into ripples. This is a strength I am always working on.
If you expected to read about a specific diet hack, or make you feel guilty for eating junk, that is not my agenda. Instead, look at the deeper message here. Consider that every single human alive is a craving machine, for food and much more. Cravings will run your life if you let them. If you can admit that you too are a craving machine, and then experience what it’s like to tame this condition, your diet will head in a positive direction naturally. Please listen to Dr. Judson Brewer beautifully present some guidance, as a starting place.
Key Teachers and Resources
1) Dr. Judson Brewer, MD, PhD, Author, Scientist
- Podcast Episode:
The Mindful Way to Kick a Craving
“A lot of people have a dysfunctional relationship with eating. Whether they stress eat, or eat out of boredom, or out of anxiety… a lot of emotional eating. They’ve actually unlearned the ability to know when they’re hungry, because they just know they have a craving to eat and they don’t know whether it’s because of physiologic or homeostatic hunger, or actually hedonic or emotional hunger. And so they just crave, eat, crave, eat, crave, eat, and perpetuate that process, and in the meantime, have all sorts of things that are no so helpful for them happen, like become obese, or become a sugar addict.
This is about simply having people pay attention as they eat [as opposed to a diet], as a place to start. And notice, “what does it feel like to be full?” Or play with, “how little is enough?”. What a great exploration. “Do I need one more bite? Maybe this is enough”.
It really is a wonderful way to take something that we have to do, all the time, and have it be our teacher so that we can start to learn how our minds work.”
– Dr. Judson Brewer
2) Key Nutrition Principles
Beyond cravings, and more specifically about food, there are a few *basic* diet fundamentals that are worth understanding. Though the diet and nutrition world is fraught with fads, arguments, and conflicting ideas, the bullets below are widely accepted as uncontroversial truth:
- Eating too many simple carbs (white bread, sugar) is harmful
- Eating too often is harmful (consider benefits of intermittent fasting, also here)
- A balance of macronutrients is optimal (protein, carbs, fats)
- Generally, stick with minimally processed foods (see also here)
“What is ‘clean eating’? Clean eating does not have anything to do with food being clean or dirty. It simply involves choosing minimally processed, real foods that provide maximal nutritional benefits. The idea is to consume foods that are as close to their natural state as possible.”
– Franziska Spritzler, CDE, Healthline
If you have any questions please post them on any article - I'll follow up quickly - usually the same day. Happy to brainstorm and would love to hear about your challenges and journey.