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A couple of weeks ago, I reached a breaking point with my health. I suffer from an underlying health condition that makes me severely anaemic a lot of the time, and although I am taking iron for it, it doesn’t work particularly well. I’ve never been one of those “my body is a temple” people or someone that can follow the restrictions of a diet. But I realised first-hand that when people say “you are what you eat” they do mean it. I looked into the concept of mindful eating. Once I started putting more thought into what I was putting into my body, I started to feel better not only physically, but mentally as well.
What is mindful eating?
Mindful eating is a way of controlling your eating habits without restrictive or fad diets. It is a technique that only requires you to think more about eating. This means eating slowly and without distraction so that you are “in the moment” when you eat. It also includes thinking more about the nutritional value of what you put into your body and listening to your body more when it comes to being hungry or not hungry. Some people use mindful eating techniques for weight loss, but most just use it to stop unhealthy eating habits.
What parts of mindful eating did I practice?
I’ve always been a keen cook, and interested in food and cooking (which is why you will see my blog has a lot of food content), so to be honest, for myself, I didn’t need to practice mindful eating when it came to cooking and eating meals without distractions. What I needed to focus on was the actual food itself I was putting into my body, and whether it would give me energy and help my mood. I started to eliminate foods like chocolate or breakfast biscuits that gave me a “quick fix” of energy, and replace them with more healthy alternatives. In around a week, I started to notice the results. I felt so much better physically and mentally as well.
What I have learned from eating more mindfully
Being more mindful of the foods and ingredients I eat gave me the scope to think more broadly about my diet in general. There are a few foods I didn’t think I liked that much that I have enjoyed, and I’ve got bored of some foods I thought I could eat day in day out. Here are some things I learned from eating more mindfully:
- FISH. FISH. FISH. I always say I only like salmon and cod, but it turns out you can do quite a lot with those two to stop your diet from being boring. I’ve added fish into my diet around 3 times a week and I cannot tell you how much of an effect this has had on my energy levels and my mental health.
- My body prefers me to eat carbs in the evening. If I eat carbs in the morning I feel sluggish and tired still. I tend to eat a protein-rich breakfast then a protein/veg based lunch and try and get my daily carb intake in at dinner time when all I need to do afterwards is have a shower and go to bed.
- You can squeeze veggies into more or less everything. Seriously.
- You can get quite good deals on healthy food if you shop in the reduced section on the day. Appreciate not a lot of people have the time to do this, but I’ve had a lot more time during lockdown for supermarket bargain hunting.
- Frozen veg is your friend, trying to use up all of the fresh veg before it goes bad is almost impossible.
Other things to help with your physical and mental health while suffering from chronic illness
Living with a chronic illness and its symptoms can be difficult, especially as it tends to effect your mental health as well. As well as eating more mindfully, there are a few other things I have found to help.
- CBD oil. This helps not only with the physical symptoms of chronic pain, but also with anxiety
- Getting outside. I’m not one of these people that will tell you exercise is great for your chronic illness or mental health, because in all honesty, it doesn’t work for me. But getting outside does. Even if you sit outside with a coffee on your lunch break, it might make you feel a bit better
- Take time for you. This is an important one. “Me time” is incredibly important if you are trying to live with a chronic illness.
February 2023 Update
Well, it has been a long ride, a lot of misdiagnosis and a hell of a lot of pain, but I have finally been diagnosed with Crohn’s. I’ve found myself continuing to eat more mindfully since I started back on solid food after a 3 month hospital stay, and it isn’t even something that is a conscious decision. I was nil by mouth for ages, being fed through a tube in my artery, and then after that I was on a liquid diet for weeks. It isn’t until you get the pleasure of eating taken away from you, that you realise how much it can be a positive on your mental health. Although my dietary requirements and need for nutrients were taken care of by the TPN going straight into my artery, I missed the physical act of eating. Since I’ve been able to again, I’ve noticed myself eating more slowly, putting more effort into meal planning so that I put nourishment into my body, and setting aside “meal times” away from distractions.
Love to know your thoughts guys?