Garbage In, Garbage Out: How to Fuel Your Body and Mind
Fueling your body and your mind is something you do every single day. Most of us are consuming three meals a day. The average American consumes 15.5 hours of media each day. With obesity and stress levels rising, how can you optimize what you use to fuel your body and mind as a way to strengthen health and restore peace?
4 Basic Principles for Eating Healthier
Feeding your body begins with knowing what to eat, how much to eat, and when to eat. This balance can feel tricky when sometimes fatigue or anxiety can masquerade as hunger.
It’s a slippery slope between self-control and self-deprivation. With seemingly conflicting information about meat and wheat or carbs and calories, educating yourself about the best way to feed yourself and your family can be a full-time job.
Let’s stick to a few basic principles to ensure you’re fueling your body for better health.
- Avoid eating after 7pm. For many people, this is the time where cravings kick in. After a full day of eating healthy foods in reasonable amounts, you may want to grab a tub of ice cream and eat the whole thing. Instead, try going for a walk, crafting a project, or reading a book. Sometimes boredom disguises itself in cravings.
- Eat meals the size of your stomach. An adult’s stomach is about the size of a fist. It expands and contracts during digestion. If you look at the size of dinner plates and restaurant meals, it doesn’t take long to see that you have gotten used to consuming more than needed. When ordering a meal or cooking at home, watch your portion size.
- Create a rainbow of colors for your plate. Fruits and vegetables are colorful. Eating a full rainbow each day helps to get away from the breads and pastas and into the healthier choices provided by nature. This is especially great for kids who love to track things. Make a chart and let them tick off each color they eat. My children love purple potatoes and red carrots. And getting a star for eating a rainbow encourages them to focus on healthy eating.
- Take a tip from traffic control. The red light, green light, yellow light concept is universally understood. Pairing foods with lights can be a useful solution to problem foods. For example, I can have cookies in the house without binging on them but they aren’t a healthy part of my diet so they would be a yellow food on my list. My cousin cannot have cookies in the house without eating the entire package so for her they become a red food. Green foods are healthy and easy to access. Yellow foods are out of sight but available and red foods don’t even make it into the shopping cart.
If you want a more in-depth look at cravings and health, Deepak’s What Are You Hungry For? is a fabulous resource.
3 Tips for Fueling Your Mind with Positivity
Feeding your mind with positivity is just as important as feeding your body. The reverse is also true, filling your brain with negative images can be bad for your health. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found people who experienced an elevated mood after reading a good news story actually became more likely to believe that there is good in the world.
Another study published in Human Communication Research in 2012, showed films that provided an uplifting feeling by depicting a deeply moral act, such as generosity or loyalty, actually inspire people to be kinder and more generous. This research suggests that there can be an upward spiral of positive emotion, which basically means that seeing good makes you want to do good.
Start working these tips into your daily life to fuel your mind:
- No news is good news. Be aware of the source of your news and the amount and time of consumption. News right before bed is a no-no if you want a good night’s sleep. Watching vivid images of violence, destruction, and conflict doesn’t set the stage for a calm mind. Likewise, having the news on in the background as you cook, clean, or eat normalizes the images and stories that are the extremes. I choose to get my information on the radio and I prefer a channel that balances local events with politics, health, and current world events.
- Gratitude is the attitude. The chemicals produced by your brain when things go wrong are stronger than when things go right. This means you have to boost your positivity by thinking of it in a focused way. Mentally listing three things you are grateful for is a great way to counteract negativity. Or try a gratitude journal. Looking back on good moments when you are having a bad day is a nice way to reset your equilibrium.
- Start with a smile. According to Thich Nhat Hanh, “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” The act of smiling, whether a true smile or a “fake-it-till-you-make-it” kind of smile, activates the release of neuropeptides that work toward fighting off stress. Translation: just by pretending to be happier, your body begins a flood of chemicals designed to actually make you happier. Even better, smiles are contagious due to the effect of mirror neurons that cause someone else to smile back when you smile at them.
When starting a new way to eat or think, remember to:
- Celebrate successes along the route to your goal
- Focus on the changes you have made and how you feel
- Don’t beat yourself up if you fall back into an old pattern
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