Eating Mindfully in Crisis

Jitendra

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This week, I went to three different grocery stores and several online shops looking for flour. I couldn’t find it. Flour, one of the most basic ingredients one can find in a pantry, is now being sold on the internet for upwards of $50 a bag.

Never in my life had I experienced food scarcity to this degree. Grocery stores are not properly stocked. Chrissy Teigen is outsourcing for romaine lettuce on Twitter. We’re encouraged to avoid going out in public at all, which has a lot of us rifling through our pantries for something appealing. In short, we are at a time of global crisis— and it is affecting how we eat. These feelings can be summed up to food insecurity, a term used to refer to the lack of access to adequate nutrition and the uncertainty of when you’ll have it next.

Even if you don’t acknowledge it, you may feel its effects. In a study run by Project EAT (Eating Among Teens), youths experiencing food insecurity were more likely to perceive that eating healthfully was inconvenient and that healthy food did not taste good. Food-insecure youths gravitated towards fast food and over-processed foods, as well as foods with a higher fat content.

To put it differently, in this time of need, our bodies gravitate towards putting on weight. With the stress of a potential food shortage, there is a gene within us that tells us eat more, in case this might be the last nourishment we have for a while. And even though it is quite unlikely we’ll experience a shortage of all food, the lizard part of your brain doesn’t know that. You may feel out of control, which is never a good feeling.

In yoga, we learn that much of the world’s problems can be solved by being mindful. Mindfulness means, in this case, slowing down, savoring moments, and living presently. Yes, you can eat (and cook) mindfully in times like these— and you’ll be shocked at how much better you feel. Here are a few tips for moving inward and eating mindfully when times get tough:

Work on feeling your best outside of food. Emotional eating affects many of us, especially in times of stress. To develop your best relationship with food, work on finding non-food-related coping mechanisms. Play with your pet, go for a walk— or take a yoga class! When you manage your stress better, you’ll find that your relationship with food blossoms for the better. Whether it’s rediscovering your appetite or quitting binge eating, stress management is the ultimate solution.

Keep it fresh. The more fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs you incorporate into your diet, the healthier you will be. Not only are they more filling, but due to their natural simplicity your body digests them easier and thrives on their accessible nutrients and vitamins. While food insecurity might deter you from a produce-based diet, fruits and vegetables are some of the most abundant items you can find in your local grocery store. They’ll provide much-needed variety during this time, and add some lovely color to your dish.

Take a moment of gratitude before your meal. No matter how stressful this time is, sitting down for a meal is a moment to say thanks. Whether it’s for the food on your plate, the roof over your head, or the company you keep, you have something to be grateful for. Starting our meals with gratitude helps us savor them more, and infuse the moment with positivity.

Put down your phone and turn off the TV. Even nice meals are difficult to enjoy if you have Twitter feeding you news alerts while you eat. Take meal time as time for yourself and the people you share your space with. This was one of the first tips I got from a holistic healer when I talked about having stomach problems— and shockingly, it even worked for that. When your mind is fully aware that you are eating, it tells your body to kick into digestion mode. And, you’re more likely to feel satisfied or full if you are present during your meal.

Eat slowly. We all know someone (maybe even ourselves) who can finish dinner in under ten minutes. Because it takes around twenty minutes for your body to register fullness, that is far too quick to adequately tune in to your body’s signals. Beyond that, it doesn’t give you the time to truly relish and enjoy the flavors on your plate. You wouldn’t rush through a meal at a five-star restaurant, so don’t rush through your breakfast either. Take your time and enjoy the flavors— your body (and stomach) will thank you.

Remember these tips the next time you’re getting ready for a meal— and try them out! If you like them, keep them in your routine. And most importantly, remember we will get through this. Take note of the lovely things in the world, and eat your vegetables.

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