The 7 Dimensions to Mind-Body Nutrition
For years the focus of nutrition has always been from the outside-in meaning, we find the good food that exists outside of us, we ingest it and because that food is so healthy, it will have a desirable nutritional influence on the body.
Makes perfect sense, right?
It’s true, but only up to a point!
What the field of nutrition has not focused on enough is the nutrition from the inside-out meaning, what are the ideal conditions for the body to metabolize food optimally? So, what needs to be happening inside the mind, body and emotions so that digestion, assimilation and calorie burning function are at its best so that you can achieve your ultimate health and weight loss goal?
Simply put, what we eat is only half the story of good nutrition. The other half is who we are as eaters and that is where the Mind-Body Nutrition approach comes in. Mind-Body Nutrition reveals how stress, our relaxation response, breathing, awareness of our surroundings, pleasure and meal timing can influence digestion and calorie burning.
Below are 7 dimensions along with some tips to the Mind-Body Nutrition approach that each and every one of us need to be aware of when we are trying to lose weight or achieve our ultimate body goal.
1 – STRESS
It might seem like a no brainer that stress is the largest contributing factor to our weight struggles, but do you know why this is?
When we are stressed, we don’t digest!
We live in a society where stress is the norm and we survive in flight or fight mode. This self-preservation mode that our body enters causes a cascade of events including a lack of proper digestion and absorption of food. The rush of blood flow to our extremities restricts blood flow elsewhere, therefore, turning off our digestive system for optimal efficiency. So, it doesn’t matter if you are eating chicken and broccoli or a donut, your body is going to struggle to digest both, leading to bloating, weight gain and other digestive upset.
Tip: Acknowledge that you cannot control everything in your life. All too often we focus on what we cannot control and this stresses our bodies out. Instead, focus on what you can control. Below is a a great way to assess what you can and cannot control in your life.
Complete the following stress inventory assignment.
- Take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle
- On the left-hand side, write down all the stresses in your life that you can control
- Now write down how you can make changes to reduce stress in these areas, if possible.
Example: The stress of a grumpy boss or a husband that always leaves the toilet seat up…
How can you control your reaction to either situation to lower your stress?
- On the right-hand side, write down all the stresses in your life that you cannot
Example: This could include a sick/ill parent.
Acknowledge these, and then let them go!
2 – SPEED OF EATING
Did you know that the speed you live your life is directly related to the speed you eat your food?
Where can you slowdown in life?
- Wake up 15 minutes earlier so you are not rushed in the morning
- Eat your lunch in a park or even in a room at work that doesn’t contain electronics so that you can slow down and focus on your food, enjoying every bite
- Turn the TV off at home while eating dinner for that same reason
- Stop eating in the car while rushing between appointments
- Sit down to eat! Take time to prepare and enjoy it.
It takes our bodies 20 minutes to recognize that we are full, so if you are scarfing your meal down in under 5 minutes because you are always rushed, start to be mindful about how that is impacting your digestion. You will also notice a link between Stress and Eating Speed. Typically, those who are stressed are also rushing through life and especially meals.
Tip: Change at least one part of your day where you can slow things down. Where are you going to start?
3 – RHYTHM
Everything in life needs a rhythm. Our sleep, our female cycles and our eating all need to have a rhythm. We know that if our sleep or cycle is out of rhythm it is telling us that something in our body is off. Well, the rhythm of our meals acts the same way.
How does the rhythm of your eating look on a day to day basis? Do you…
- Skip breakfast every morning?
- Forget to eat because you are always running late or are just too busy?
- Eat too light of meals throughout the day to be healthy and then find yourself snacking late at night?
- Eat a heavy, sugar filled breakfast and try to reduce your intake in the day only to find yourself binge eating late at night?
These can all impact your weight loss.
Tip: Look at the rhythm of your life, including how and when you eat. How can you make a change in sleeping patterns and eating rhythm to see better results?
4 – TOXIC THOUGHTS & BELIEFS
We are all a product of our environment. What we are taught growing up, especially from our parents, will impact who we become today, and this includes messages around diet and weight loss. What are your thoughts and beliefs around food and nutrition?
- Do you believe fat will make you fat?
- Do you believe that carbs are bad?
- Do you believe that once you are skinny you will be happy?
What are your toxic thoughts and beliefs around eating? These thoughts and beliefs are built into what we have tried in the past in order to help us lose weight. Have they worked? Have they created lasting results? Most likely no, and that’s why you are here today.
Tip: Write these thoughts and beliefs down and recognize where they are coming from and how they have contributed to your weight loss struggles.
5 – FOOD SENSITIVITIES & ALLERGIES
Did you know that sometimes the healthiest of foods can cause weight issues and/or stall our progress? In this case, an elimination diet can make a world of a difference to set our bodies on track. Far too often I see clients struggle with their weight while ‘eating all the right things.’ They don’t realize that it might be a sensitivity or an allergy to a food that is stalling their progress – even if its healthy.
Tip: For seven days eliminate four things:
Review the foods you consume daily and find out what they contain; this is also a great way to educate yourself on food ingredients. There is no limit on the other foods you eat, just eliminate these items for one week.
Record for one week straight what you eat and most importantly how you feel. After that week it’s up to you what you want to put back into your diet. Once you do, notice how you feel and decide if you want to make further changes.
6 – POWER OF SUBSTANCES
Are you mindful of your intake of alcohol, sugar, caffeine and prescription medications? And are you aware of the impact they can have on your weight? I truly believe “everything in moderation,” and don’t strictly abstain for the above myself. However, understanding their impact on weight loss/gain is important. Have you checked the prescription medication(s) you are on to see if they have any known side effects of weight gain? (Please note: If you have any concerns about any side effects, please refer back to your physician. I am not telling you to stop taking any medication, merely encouraging you to become aware of possible weight related side effects).
Tip: Substances such as alcohol, sugar and caffeine can have a significant impact on your weight so, ask yourself the following questions:
- How much alcohol do I consume on a weekly basis?
- Can reduce my alcohol intake and, if so, where?
- What is the impact of my consumption of alcohol?
- Do I tell myself that I will have just one and it always turns into three?
- Does my alcohol consumption lead to snacking?
- Does drinking alcohol lead to negative self-talk, self-pity and/or emotional eating?
- How much sugar do I consume on a daily basis?
- Am I addicted to sugar addict?
- Where am I filling a void in my life with sugar and sweets?
- Where can I make a change in my daily routine to reduce my sugar intake?
- How many coffees and/or energy drinks do I consume daily?
- Why do I drink caffeinated beverages?
- Am I trying to fight fatigue? What is the fatigue actually from?
- Is that the more underlying issue here that I need to look at?
- Can I reduce my caffeine intake for one week to see how I feel? If so, when and where?
7 – EMBODIMENT & PLEASURE
How present are you in your day-to-day life? Far too often I see I see clients constantly living in the past (how they looked on their wedding day, what they looked like before kids, etc.). They struggle to honor who they are today and the body they currently have. It is important to embrace our current body because it tells the story of where we have been and how we got to where we are now.
Humans are designed to seek pleasure and avoid pain, which is what leads us to emotional eating. For many of us, it is easier to eat our feelings than it is to face them, because facing them means taking a hard look at our relationships, career, finances, family, etc. But avoiding that root cause of our issues by eating the feelings away comes at a steep cost when we are also trying to achieve health and fitness goals and/or develop a positive body image. Additionally, higher levels of stress lead to higher levels of cortisol which further leads to a desensitization of your pleasure centers. SO you literally needs eat more food when you are in this state for it to become pleasurable.
Tip: Think of one thing you can change to become more present in your life? Think of all of the areas where you don’t find enough pleasure in your life… how can you find more pleasure in one of those areas instead of filling the void with food?