Prioritizing proper nutrition is the backbone to managing and maintaining mental and physical well-being. It is the most important thing you can do to prevent a health crisis. It lowers the chances of developing various chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and countless others. A healthy diet can support longevity, normal development, and graceful aging.
Paying attention to what we eat is a gateway to a greater understanding of why we choose to eat that way, how it makes us feel, and its impact on the rest of the world.
As someone who is borderline obsessed with personal development, energy systems, and the environment for over 10 years, here are a few things I have learned from becoming acutely aware of the importance of quality nutrition:
1. Food is fuel:
At an early age, I learned that food acts as the building blocks of the mind and body. The body is the vehicle that takes us on a ride through life. Eating well is crucial to ensure quality sleep and maintain physicality. If I want to feel strong in my body, I have to consider the types of food that I fuel it with because the food either depletes or enhances my energy. Food is the source of vitality that keeps us powered through the day. It acts in the same way that gas fuels a car. Our bodies are also vehicles that need fuel. But just like there are different types of fuels for different kinds of cars, all foods do not serve to energize the body in the same way. Some foods, such as processed junk foods, provide little fuel while polluting the body, while others, such as whole grains and lean proteins, provide a great deal of quality fuel. I had to learn to evaluate which foods made me feel my best and which did not.
2. How we eat is just as important as what we eat:
The second thing I have become increasingly aware of is the concept that how we eat is just as important as what we eat. In an effort to get to know myself better, I committed to understanding my triggers and asking myself questions. I would ask myself: Am I hungry or am I bored? Am I stress eating? Why am I snacking? What can I do to control my meal environment? Paying attention to these variables helped me regain control of my own narrative and stop myself from eating for reasons besides simply being hungry.
Now not only do I pay attention to what I put in my body, but I also observe how my body is handling emotions when it’s time to eat. When the body feels intense emotion such as stress or anxiety, the gut’s digestive process is influenced and altered. Stress hormones, such as adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol, will interact with the cells in the gut, making us alert and ready for fight or flight. These emotions will compromise digestion.
Listening to your own body is so much more important than following a trend. Since honoring this concept, I have taken the responsibility to give my body what it needs. Through trial and error, I now know what works for my specific body type. I am aware of what will put my body in discomfort, which will ultimately disrupt my day. I pay attention to distractions during a meal or any given environment and now take the time to enjoy the quality and quantity of my food. By removing interruptions, I find solace in the moments to fuel my body. No two bodies are created equal. Find out what makes you feel your best and most energized.
3. Food can strengthen a community:
Buying local and supporting those around me is one of my core values. I became curious about where the food I was consuming was sourced, as well as its benefits and actions on the local community. I took time to get to know the vendors at the local farmers markets, the owners and the local grocers, and even those who serviced me at the register. Understanding where my food was coming from and feeling closer to the process made me appreciate food and the community more as a whole.
In an effort to better care for the planet, I do my best to take care of my space and waste. I am a firm believer in the zero-waste club and that we can and should do our part. With a little bit of research, I cultivated my own compost and grew my own herbs. I am learning how to expand my culinary skills by using what I have to cook a nourishing meal. Cooking my own food has helped me appreciate food more and control the healthy fuel for my body.
4. Balance is key:
Another thing I have learned over the years is that there is no one right way to eat. Your diet should not be one extreme or the other. As Michael Pollen quotes, “Everything I have learned about food and health can be summed up in seven words: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” This is a general guideline that many will benefit from, but it is not always the reality. We all have cravings that are important to satisfy because if we don’t, we’ll look for them elsewhere. We will also find ourselves in places where we won’t have access to the types of foods our body needs. Treating yourself once in a while is not the end of the world. It’s important to be realistic with yourself and give yourself a break on occasion. Moderation in moderation. We are only human.
5. Choose wisely:
When selecting food that will nourish your body, it is best to choose organic and nutritious foods. Vegetables, fruits, quality fats, and whole grains are full of essential vitamins and minerals that will provide you with enough energy to sustain you throughout the day. Choosing organic foods means more beneficial nutrients such as antioxidants and access to more healthy fats. Organic foods are also free from synthetic hormones and antibiotics, which are terrible for your body. Extra points if you can include all the colors of the rainbow on your plate!
6. Food can be a form of self-care:
The last thing I have come to learn about food is how what I eat can translate into self-care. I realized that fueling my body with natural, wholesome food is truly an act of self-love and respect. In order to be my best, help sustain my community, and show up for myself, I need to nourish my body with food that leaves me feeling great. Our bodies have carried the wisdom from the very beginning. They know what to do to thrive. Always remember to be loving and caring to yourself.
Eating well is so much more than just taking care of yourself. It’s a representation of your priorities, morals, and ethics. What we eat is a component of our customs and culture. It helps to shape our values, beliefs, and resources. It plays a part in our identity, sense of self, and what we gravitate towards as individuals. It’s a symbol of what we care about and how we want to show up in the world. The most significant thing that I have learned about food is that it has an effect on almost every aspect of your life because it literally fuels your life. Take more time to focus on your body’s power source and the ways it impacts you. You are…what you eat.