Fitness Through Mindful Eating

If you’re like many people, when you think of fitness, you think of exercise. But that’s only one piece of the puzzle. Sure, it’s a big piece, but there’s more to being fit than lifting weights. Before you can even get on that treadmill, your body needs to produce energy. The body uses the nutrients from food to do this. So, before you workout, yes, you need to eat. But what, when and how much you eat also plays a big role in whether or not you maintain that fit physique you’ve worked so hard to get.

What to Eat

Eating for fitness doesn’t have to mean calorie counting and complications. Really, all you need to know about what to eat can be summed up in three words: Eat Real Food. Sounds simple? Well, it is. But to be successful, you need to be able to identify real food. A potato is real food. A frozen bag of French fries with more than one or two ingredients is not real food. Anything that contains hydrogenated oils, artificial preservatives, colors or sweeteners is not real food. By the way, whenever you see hydrogenated oil listed as an ingredient, you can read it as “trans fat,” because that’s exactly what it is. Trans fats are considered the worst types of fat because they raise your bad cholesterol levels and lower your good cholesterol levels. But you don’t need to worry about any of that, as long as you just eat real food. Buy fresh produce and experiment with recipes. Avoid refined sugars (to processed to be real food), and opt for natural sweeteners like honey instead.

When to Eat

Again, this is a very simple concept. Eat when you are hungry. Many fitness experts disagree about how often you should be eating in a day. Some say to eat more to keep your metabolism going. Others believe you should give your digestive system a rest, time to detox from previous meals. I’m with the latter group. When it’s time to eat, your body will let you know. I believe we need to stop following fad diets and start listening to our own bodies.

How Much to Eat

Again, this is a simple concept. Buddhists call it ‘mindful eating.’ To understand the concept of mindful eating, think of it as the opposite as mindless eating. When it’s time to eat, remove all distractions. Don’t sit in front of the television with a tub of popcorn, or you’re likely to finish it all before you even realize it. You should be eating for nourishment, not for sport. Focus on your food, savor the taste, and eat until you’re full. There’s no need to measure portions, if you just listen to cues your body is giving.

Possibly the most important tip I can offer is to not let any of this stress you out. Stress can lead to hunger, which can lead to overeating. Sometimes life will get in the way. For example, if you’re learning how to become a chef or a baker, you might need to sample food when you’re not hungry or when you’re distracted, or you might even have to consume some refined sugar. It’s ok. Just try to be as mindful as possible during the other moments of your life.

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