Should I finish that last piece of pizza? It’s just going to sit staring at me in that forlorn way. And what about the ice cream screaming out from the freezer? Surely, it needs my attention.
Such a dilemma. Decisions to be made every day. They seem so ordinary, even somewhat frivolous. Yet, they have the power to transform your life. What does it take for a person to reassess her food habits? The reflection in the mirror? A squealing weighing scale? Or something more elemental, like better immunity or stamina?
For me, it was an ailment.
Picture a 20-something, hard-nosed journalist trying to make her mark at a widely-read newspaper. I did everything in my power to prove to others (and myself) that I had what it takes to be there. But after two years of juggling a master’s degree and a demanding job – my body waved the proverbial white flag.
The late hours, erratic eating with questionable food choices, disturbed sleep schedules, stress, lack of exercise and rest – all spiralled into an almost-debilitating bout of eczema. I woke up one morning with angry, oozing blisters all over my legs. It took two painful months for me to get back on my feet.
But something evidently changed within me during this time.
Through my healing process, rooted in naturopathic practices, I began to appreciate how intrinsically nourishment is connected to our state of health. According to The Nature Cure, the gut is the seat of any illness, described as a build-up of toxins. The path to wellness is paved by two industrious gatekeepers – mindful eating and exercise.
Mindful eating, in simple terms, is paying close attention to the food you eat. Being fully aware of the interplay of flavors, recognizing satiety cues, and developing a deeper understanding of how each morsel or ingredient affects the body – all help us to eat better, and thus feel stronger.
Exercise of any kind, as is well documented, enhances overall well-being and strengthens the body’s immune system, while also effectively aiding the elimination of toxins. Physical activity offers a world of benefits, and if carried out in conjunction with mindful eating, can work miracles for the dis-eased and healthy.
Here are some observations I made along the way:
- Preparing a food journal helps: Document everything you are putting into your mouth – from sunrise to sunset (and beyond, if you suffer from nighttime cravings!) You will be surprised by how much nutrient-deficient food we gorge on, and that we usually go way beyond the body’s food requirements. In this diary, also note how eating something made you feel – sluggish, energetic, etc. Learn to choose what feels right for your body.
- Nature knows best: Nothing can replace the goodness of fresh fruits and vegetables. Try ditching artificial, synthetic products and replace them with the real thing. You will not have to look elsewhere for nutrition and better immunity.
- Learn to cook: Anything that comes in a package (even labeled “fortified/healthy/zero-fat” etc.) is replete with artificial ingredients that may not be good for the body. Instead, become the master of your meals and learn to cook dishes that you like from scratch. Your body will thank you for it!
- Fix a mealtime schedule: Every organ in the body toils hard to keep this amazing machine running efficiently, so it is our job to provide it with good fuel at the right time. Learn to read and listen to your body’s signals.
- Exercise, exercise: Being active not only lifts your mood and keeps you in shape, but also helps the organs work at their optimum. Every time you exercise, play a sport, or practice yoga and pranayama, there are positive changes taking place right at the cellular level. Yoga, for instance, puts great emphasis on breathing into asanas (postures), and can assist in healing and recovery at various levels – mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual.
- Lastly, but most importantly, the body deserves respect: It is rightly said that our body is our home for life. Every body is different and designed in its own unique way. Appreciate its strengths, and never forget to make allowances for its needs and limitations.
As a mother to a toddler, I have realized that children usually eat what they see their parents eating. So, if they observe you grabbing a packet of biscuits/chips when hunger strikes, they will demand these too. The easiest way to teach children to eat better is to make healthier choices for yourself. They emulate us much more than we think they do. Thus, family mealtimes are crucial for children’s understanding of food and nutrition.
Try not to label foods as good or bad. Children may not be able to grasp how something that tastes good can be ‘bad’. Instead make them aware of how different foods impact the body. Explain the basics of fresh and natural as against processed and so on.
Keep plenty of options in fresh, nutritious food. Just like we crave variety, kids do too. So always try to offer different fruits, vegetables and healthy options – and they will usually not make a fuss. It’s a matter of personal pride for me when my daughter picks a handful of raisins over a cookie or carrot sticks over bread!
Involve them in the cooking process. Children thrive on experiential learning. Let them assist in the kitchen in any way they can, according to their age. My daughter usually helps me add spices to our vegetables and curries. She rattles off all their names already and invariably, wants to nibble on whatever I am cooking. She’s tasted many vegetables in their raw form and has even developed a liking for radish!
Let their first meal of the day not come from a box. If possible with our busy lives, starting the day with a home-cooked, hearty, wholesome breakfast will determine their eating pattern for the day. A bit of planning the night before can go a long way in making your mornings less rushed.
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