When was the last time you were binge eating?
The one common that binds us humans is STRESS! That’s right! Ask anyone you meet, 95% of the people will tell you how and why they are stressed. In this fast concrete jungle, we are losing time in a blink of an eye. The most common reaction to stress is FOOD.
Either you eat a lot while you are stressed, or you barely eat. If like most people you are the first kind, I am sure you eat more unhealthy food than you do healthy.
For most of us food is the basic mood lifter.
Imagine this – You have a bad day at work, and you are super hungry when you come back home. You start looking through the food apps and find your favourite food to lighten up your mood. I can be sure it’s not a completely healthy salad. Us Indians love our spicy oily and fried food right?
Right after you are done, you feel a little guilty and think to yourself that you’ll eat healthy tomorrow or exercise soon. But eventually this doesn’t happen and you are in a loop all over.
For most of us food is a mood enhancer. When we are happy we want good food to celebrate, when we are sad we want good food to forget and if we are angry we want the best food to calm down.
Let’s take a deeper dive into this.
The right kind of nutritional value food in congruence with our values has the ability to shape us, heal us and prevent many problems. The right food stands to be one of the most important verticals of a holistic development. Each of us have 5 selves – physical, emotional, mental, spiritual and intellectual – and everything that we put in our mouths helps shape each of these selves; right from the way we look, think and speak to the way we fight or prevent illnesses, age, feel, and so much more. What we eat is not only manifested physically in our body but also mentally in our thoughts.
The nutritional content of what we eat determines the composition of our cell membranes, bone marrow, blood, hormones, tissue, organs, skin, and hair. Our bodies are replacing billions of cells every day — and using the foods we consume as the source. Researchers at the University of Oxford have demonstrated that the diets of organisms can even affect the composition of their genes. Since organisms construct their DNA using building blocks they get from food.
Earlier the food was much clearer, fresh, wholesome and natural. There were less diseases and mental stress. With the growing population there has been a gradual decline in the equality of food and the processed and refined food started prevailing in households. Eventually there was an increase in diseases, poor immunity, skin and hair health, infertility, metabolic conditions, obesity, and much more.
There are many factors to emotional wellbeing but nutrition has a major role to play.
“Food is medicine” ; not just for our body but also our emotional health.
While a clean and wholesome diet contains highly vibrational foods- processed, putrid, burnt, refined foods are low vibrational foods.
This has an impact on every aspect of our body, mind and spirit. The ancient yogic texts also talk about this fact. According to them there are three types of food –
Sattvik – Means the food is pure, clean, vital and energetic.
Rajasic – Means kingly food that is quality and freshness
Tamasi – means any kind of food that has been processed.
It’s reported that many people have improved their anger, frustration, mood, focus or concentration when they shifted to clean eating. Their prayers and spiritual practice were also enhanced, and meditation went deeper with cleaner eating habits. This is also why a heavy, greasy meal at a restaurant leaves you feeling sluggish the next day. Food is meant to energize and fuel you, not drain and rob you of energy.
A well-balanced diet not only results in better health and overall body composition, but because of the “brain-gut connection” — can also make you feel great. Eating well is part of the strategy that can reduce our risk of any chronic disease and even improve the condition of our very genes. There is not “one rule fits all” when it comes to eating well. Applying the commonly accepted recommendations such as low sugar, low salt, and a good variety of nutrients might be the most advisable for all of us.
What we eat and how much we eat is critical, but how we process it is perhaps even more important. Through thousands of little sensors, the gut has the immense task of managing all the information contained in the food we intake. Food alone will not promise a thriving gut.
It can be as simple as becoming more aware of the act of eating itself — including seeing, smelling, chewing, and swallowing. We can also extend our attentiveness to the influence the food has on our bodies and mood.
Most people end up eating while watching tv or talking to someone, this can lead to unhealthy amount of food intake. ‘Mindful eating’ is essential to have the right amount of food and it also helps in proper digestion. It can change bad eating patterns. Trials using the mindful eating approach have shown that participants significantly reduced compulsive eating habits, improved self-control, diminished depressive symptoms, lost weight, and maintained their weight loss for long periods of time
Food and immunity
Our immune system is what defines our physical health which also affects our mental health.
The right food can feed our immune system and the wrong food can cripple our immunity. Immunity, being the first and last line of defense, is the most important barrier we have against diseases.
Why do most ancient remedies for curing a fever, cold, cough, flu, headache, stomach ache, or any physical suffering, revolve around food as the first step? Because food heals us, right from a spice or herb to various concoctions and dishes.
Food and our thoughts
Foods not only make you look and feel differently but can also impact your thinking, personality and character. There is a direct link between food and mood. Our body relies on nutrition to manufacture the right number of neurotransmitters and hormones that make us feel food. Certain foods can stimulate emotions like anger, frustration, anxiety, grogginess, while other foods help you feel calmer, composed, grounded etc.
Why do we consume a lot of sugary foods end up being more cranky, restless and hyper? It’s because that’s what sugar does to our body and brain. It lights up brain activity just like any other psychoactive drug.
When we feel an intense emotion like stress or anxiety, our regular, mechanical, digestive process in the gut which mostly works independently — gets influenced and altered. Stress hormones, such as adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol, interacts with the cells in our gut, making us alert and ready for fight or flight. By paying attention to our mental state when eating, we can improve our food processing. All of our body parts are connected to our emotions, but the gut sends the strongest signaling to our brain’s emotional centers. Food also impacts our libido and sexual desire in a huge way.
Food and sleep
Certain foods have the ability to calm us down, making the process of drifting off to sleep much easier, like magnesium-rich foods i.e green leafy vegetables, salmon, nuts and seeds, fruits and more. Other foods can act as potent stimulants. They wake up our mind, make us jittery and anxious, and give us an uphill task to fall asleep.
Food and our skin, hair and nails
Skin, hair and nails are also made up of cells, and the health of it depends on the quality of nutrition reaching these cells. It’s an inside out approach. Acne, skin allergies, early onset of wrinkles, hair greying, brittle nails, hair fall and thinning, can speak volumes about the kind of food the person is eating. Sometimes, ensuring enough in-take of biotin-rich foods like eggs, cheese, cauliflower etc, is enough to fix a hair fall issue. No amount of creams, lotions, conditioners and serums will help if the foundation of heath, i.e. food, is not on point. The right nutrition makes it possible to have that glow on the skin, lustrous hair and strong nails.
Food and physical appearance
While physical appearance is multi-factorial, food can largely determine your body shape. A pot belly could mean one is overdoing sugar, high fructose corn syrup, alcohol, foods rich in bad fats etc. It doesn’t always have to be fat; sometimes wrong foods can also result in a bloated belly.
Contrary to that, give your body the right kind of exercise, sleep, nutrition and stable mental health, and you will work yourself towards a strong and lean body. The timing of your food can also have an effect on your body.
Food and mind
Your food choices are the most influential variables that you can control when it comes to health, vitality, and functionality of your brain. When it comes to nourishing the brain, improving cognitive skills, enhancing memory, managing brain disorders like dementia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and ADHD, food is given a huge importance in this matter.
Food and exercise
Food is energy that fuels trillions of cells in our body. Lack of energy leads to fatigue, and that can largely impact our health, the quality of a workout and also the motivation to exercise.
Sugar, caffeine and other stimulants are energizer but the fake kinds. They leave your body more tired when worn off.
Food has the ability to transform the words around us. There is a visible positive change in children’s behaviour after they reduced the consumption of sugar rich products such as soft drinks & ice cream and increased the consumption of something as basic as water.
Something as simple as growing your own vegetables is therapeutic. Just getting your hands in the dirt, trying to plant the vegetables could give you an immense sense of joy.
So, the next time you reach out for something to eat, know that it’s about more than fulfilling your hunger. What you eat reflects who you are and vice versa. It is possible that with a quality, balanced, wholesome nutritional plan, your body will gain the ability to manage diabetes, fatty liver, thyroid conditions, hormonal imbalances, cancers, depression, auto-immune diseases. It may or may not take away the disease, but it will surely help steer you in the right direction. After all, good food has always been used as medicine and most of the best medicines can be found in food.