Mindset Training Week 23: Conscious Eating
It fuels our bodies, minds, and spirits. Eating is one of the most important things we do each day for health and vitality.
What do you eat and why? Have you ever stopped to think about what you put into your body?
Exploring what you eat and why can give key insights into the workings of the mind. Food is a conditioned source of comfort. We eat our feelings. We eat our grief. Then hunger begins to demand a remedy for discomfort.
What are you hungry for?
Beyond satiation, hunger is ultimately the soul’s desire to know Unconditional Love.
FOOD AS COMFORT
Raising a Mormon family of six in Idaho, my mom was the perfection-seeking housewife who did it all: cooked, cleaned, made our clothes, quilted, crafted, played music. Her cooking was by far her most exacting assessment of self-worth. Mormons know how to make a good casserole, and my mom’s lasagna with layers of ricotta cheese and homemade noodles had the neighbors knocking down our door. Typical dinners consisted of a large portion of meat and loaded potatoes: butter, cheese, and sour cream. On the side, canned corn or peas; always served with Mom’s homemade bread. Our home was constantly filled with the inviting aroma of baked goods. I never lacked for cookies, cakes, or treats. Food was love, and we filled our bellies with it.
WHY DO I EAT WHAT I EAT?
The first time I asked myself this question, I’d registered for an eight-week nutrition challenge eliminating sugar, gluten, dairy, processed, low-nutrient, and inflammatory foods. I joined out of curiosity, naively. I didn’t view anything particularly bad about my diet. My typical dinner was a heap of pesto pasta and grilled chicken topped with Parmesan cheese, served with bread slathered in garlic butter. And some vegetables.
The approved food list looked dismal. No potatoes, bread, rice, or pasta … What am I going to eat instead?? I’ll starve! Carbs filled me up and made me feel good.
But I was committed. So I stocked up on fruits, veggies, eggs, and meat. Sweet potatoes were the only starch that sounded filling on the list, and didn’t sound appetizing—they called to mind Thanksgiving mush. Goodbye to all the soups, pasta sauces, and condiments riddled with sugar. No problem, I thought. I can do this.
I made it about two weeks until my craving became too intense, and caved to a gigantic plate of macaroni and cheese with bacon.
FOOD FOR NUTRIENTS
The untrained mind always reveals its weaknesses when you eliminate the things you depend on for comfort. It demands you scratch the itch. I’d learned this lesson in the past with other habits, but was blissfully naïve that food had a real hold on my mind as well.
This first experience with the mac and cheese defeating my food challenge was one of many. The more I tried to train myself to a new eating plan, the more my senses were constantly drawn to sweets, cheese, and pasta. That apple in the fridge could not have looked more unappealing. As the days went by, my cravings only grew—exponentially. My mind was in constant negotiations with itself about how it was going to get what it wanted. “I’ll reward myself.” “I deserve this.” “I’ve worked so hard!” “Look, I make it two weeks!” “I’ll give myself a cheat meal.”
Sound familiar? It will to anyone who has changed their diet. “I don’t eat that badly.” Or “I eat pretty healthy.” If there is no problem then, why change?
The reason to change your diet is for mind, body, and spirit optimization. Comfort foods are an avoidance of grief and result in procrastination. They don’t supply the body with energy-efficient nutrients and waste the most valuable of resources, time. Eating for nutrients frees the digestive system of difficult-to-process substances, increasing nutrient absorption and vitality. And it affects you on a soul level by requiring you to source love from a permanent source rather than the comfort of food. When you become conscious about everything you eat, you become aware of your emotional crutch.
What you eat becomes your energy. That is, you are what you eat. The higher quality of what you put into your body, the higher quality the output. Retrain your mind to go within for true satisfaction. Eat with a purpose. Eat for fuel, energy, and nutrients.
CATEGORIES OF FOOD
The first step is knowing what your body needs to operate. Macronutrients, or macros, are the three categories of foods that your body needs for energy and to support organ function and bodily processes: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Micronutrients, or micros, are vitamins and minerals present in these categories. Eating a balanced diet of nutrient-rich macros will supply you with adequate micronutrients.
The body converts carbohydrates into glucose, then sources them for energy for bodily function and physical activity. A wide range of foods qualify as carbs: wheat, grains, fruits, vegetables, pasta, bread, potatoes, cereal, sodas, and candy. But they’re not all equally nutritious. For example, an orange is a better source of nutrients—including fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients—than a candy bar, which is mostly sugar. When the body is on alert to normalize glucose levels in the blood from a candy bar, the spike in sugar rush energy is followed by a crash into fatigue.
Fiber-rich carbs, on the other hand, give a slow release of glucose into the blood stream rather than a big dump all at once. Sustain energy consistently throughout the day by sourcing the majority of your carbs from unprocessed or minimally processed whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Nutrient-dense carbs should fill about half of your plate for each meal.
Protein makes up body tissue and organs, including bone, muscle, skin, and hair. Chains of protein enzymes govern structure, function, and regulation of the body’s processes, building up fibers like your muscles and breaking down the food you eat. Dietary proteins can be sourced from beans, nuts, poultry, seafood, pork, and red meat.
Quality matters in the proteins you choose. Foods like ground beef and bacon are higher in saturated fats than unprocessed poultry and seafood, and have been proven to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Plant based proteins like beans and quinoa include a nutrient-dense protein package with no fat or sodium. Eat for longevity by choosing beans, nuts, fish, and poultry over red meat and processed meats (like lunch meat, which is packed with salt, sugar, and preservatives). High-quality, unprocessed, organic protein should take up about a quarter of your plate.
Fats are sources of energy and store energy reserves. Fatty acids also maintain cellular health, regulate body temperature, contribute to brain health, protect against disease, and assist with tissue repair and hormone regulation. Fat is not bad to eat! But it matters what kind of fat you ingest: trans, saturated, or unsaturated. Trans fats are considered “bad fats” and are in processed foods containing partially hydrogenated oil. These fats increase the chance for disease in the body and have been linked to cardiovascular disease and cancers. Saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature and found in dairy and other animal products, and in coconut and palm oil. Saturated fats are not as harmful as trans fats, but still pose a health risk and should be avoided or eaten in moderation. Unsaturated fats are the ideal fats for the body, found in avocados, nuts, seeds, fish, olives, and their corresponding oils. Fats are calorie-dense and you don’t need much to meet the body’s needs. A small handful of nuts or a tablespoon of oil with each meal is typically adequate.
FROM FOOD TO ENERGY
The human body is an incredible power producer! The apple you eat is transformed over 24 to 72 hours into a unit of energy that keeps you functioning. Nutrients from that apple are absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract, enter the blood stream, and then are carried to your cellular tissue. Within the tissue cells, your metabolism breaks down the molecular nutrients. Once broken down, the superheroes of your cells, the mighty mitochondria, further condense molecules to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Responsible for powering the body, ATP is the fuel for your body vehicle.
Increasing your consciousness about how your food becomes energy will cause you to consider what you’re putting in your body and why. Before you put anything in your body, ask yourself a few questions: “What quality of fuel do I want to power my body, regular or premium?” Consider: “Is this an energy-producing food or an energy-depleting food?” “Does this serve my lower, carnal appetite or feed the hunger of my soul?”
Eat whole foods that contain life force and high nutrient value for optimal digestion and energy production.
TIME-SAVING NUTRITION HACKS
Use a food tracking app
Meal tracking apps make calculating your food easy. You can put in your stats and weight goals and get your recommended calorie count for each day, and log your foods for every meal. Many foods are listed already in most apps, with calories and micronutrient percentages. The standard recommendation for protein, carbohydrates, and fats is 30%, 40%, and 30% of calories, respectively.
Keep it simple
You don’t need to be cooking a five-course meal every day. My standard grocery list is eggs, chicken breast, quinoa, sweet potatoes, fruit, vegetables, and sunflower oil. That’s it. I eat the same thing every day with a little variety in my fruits and vegetables. Once you get going, you’ll know exactly what portions you need for each meal. Your mornings will flow like clockwork.
Purchase daily food items in large quantities to save on cost and time. I buy everything in bulk monthly except fruits and vegetables. The fewer times you must run to the store, the more time you have to spend on your priority list.
Carve out time in your schedule to meal prep
Shopping, cooking, portioning, and cleaning once a week is efficient for daily grab and go, but it can take five hours from start to finish. If your schedule does not allow for that, allot an hour to meal prep once a day. I recommend a pressure cooker for efficiency—or to really save time, use two pressure cookers. I start mine right up after my morning workout and let things sizzle while I shower and get ready. Measure and pack up your food in the morning and you don’t have to think about it for the remainder of the day.
Plan your meal window
Have an eating schedule within an 8-to-12-hour window. Divide your macros into three meals and don’t snack in between or before bed. When you eat, your blood sugar levels go up. Your body then must work to digest your food and bring your blood sugar levels back to homeostasis. Eating within a designated window will keep your blood sugar at optimal levels for energy efficiency.
Drink water between meals
Hydration is vital for the body. Keep hydrated. Add a few drops of sugar-free electrolytes to maintain water balance. Half of your body weight in ounces each day is recommended.
Body, mind, and spirit optimization
You’re not restricting your diet, you’re fueling your body properly and eating with a purpose. Fill out a mind training/heart healing worksheet when cravings or intense emotions arise. Remember why you’re eating a clean diet. Use your statements of liberation when an urge to snack hits you. You love your body and want to take the best care of it for a life of self-mastery. Your body is getting all the nutrients it needs. If hunger, shame, guilt, food punishment, or negative body images arise, investigate the cause. There is an untrue story here that can be healed and rewritten. Always practice self-compassion when you feel yourself getting out of flow.
Twice-daily silent meditation will reinforce your commitment to conscious eating. Through meditation, you connect to your permanent, internal source for comfort. By connecting inward, you can diminish the strength of unwanted desires and bring clarity to what you’re truly hungry for: freedom, peace, and happiness.
ON-CUSHION: 23-MINUTE MEDITATION
Practice meditation twice daily, morning and night. Notice the subtle sensations of the body as you breathe. Relate more to the energy body than the body of matter. Repeat a statement of intention and liberation around conscious eating. Embody the truth of your words. I have a healthy and strong body. I increase my vitality through conscious eating.
10-MINUTE EMOM + 13 MINUTES OF STILLNESS
- Set timer for 23 minutes with 10 one-minute increment bells.
- Sit with your spine in neutral, shoulders over hips, ears over shoulders.
- Close the eyes and focus gently at the third eye point between the eyebrows.
- As you breathe in, imagine a golden light entering your chest and exiting through the back of your heart.
- As you breathe out, imagine the light entering the back of your head at the point where the skull meets the spine, then exiting through the third eye point.
Minute 0:00 to 10:00 (five rounds)
- Circulate energy from the heart to the mind as you inhale and exhale.
- Inhale: Silently repeat “Heart.”
- Exhale: Silently repeat “Mind.”
- Retain breath.
- Concentrate at the third eye point between the eyebrows.
- Silently repeat “Love.”
Minute 10:00 to 23:00
- Sit in silence for 13 minutes.
- Concentrate at the third eye point of intuition.
- Circulate the breath.
- Forget the body. Dissolve into energy.
- Silently repeat “Om.”
Notice the feeling of self-love awakened from meditation. Affirm I am worthy of love.
When you’re out in the world, notice when you get the sensation to eat. Is it because you’re hungry, or because you’re feeling an uncomfortable emotion? What will the food you crave provide you with? Pause. Repeat heart/mind for three to five breaths. Then, ask yourself what your higher self wants. Is there is something more nutritious that will satisfy your highest consciousness? If you’re reaching for food because you’re tired or stressed or feeling discomfort, remind yourself that the food is only a temporary relief for your emotions. Take a meditative walk, breathing into your abdomen deeply. Remind yourself of the peace and comfort you felt in meditation.
Complete introspection questions and Chapter 23 exercise from your TMHH Workbook.
Train the Mind, Heal the Heart
Photo Lincoln Brigham
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