Food is fuel
What we put in our bodies is the single most important decision we make every day. Adequately nourishing ourselves everyday is one of the best ways to practice self-care. We have to eat every single day to survive. Food is what keeps us going and we need our brains and bodies working in optimal condition for maximum productivity. Your dreams will not be adequately fueled on a meal plan of coffee, energy drinks and packaged snacks.
Whether you love to cook or struggle to boil water, investing some time up front to plan and prepare your meals throughout the week ensures that you will be optimally nourished to be your best self.
Meal planning vs. meal prepping
Are you a creature of habit when it comes to your food? Are you perfectly content eating the same things day after day or do you thrive on variety? Whatever your approach is to food, having a plan for the week can eliminate a lot of stress and ensure that you are feeling your best.
Meal planning doesn’t necessarily have to mean spending hours on a Sunday cooking and packing up the same meal to eat for the next five days. If meal prepping that way works for you, absolutely do it. If you’re constantly forgetting to eat, agonizing over what to eat and living on impulse decisions when it comes to what you eat, a little up front planning for the week will completely change your life. Bonus - planning will also likely save you a lot of money.
Spending an hour or so planning most of your meals for the week will save you a lot of time and stress. Planning also increases the likelihood that you will make healthier food choices that make you feel your best. Some tips for effective planning include:
- Prepare produce as soon as you get home from the grocery store and store it in the refrigerator in attractive glass containers. You’re more likely to make a salad or reach for a snack of hummus and veggies if you don’t have to do any chopping and looks visually appealing when you open the fridge.
- Batch cook by preparing a few ingredients ahead of time that can be mixed and matched to create different meals. Think proteins, grains and veggies that can be combined to make burrito bowls, salads, stir fries, etc. Preparing ingredients that you can repurpose into different meals allows for some spontaneity and flexibility depending on what you’re craving that day.
- Traveling or have some business lunches or dinners in your future? Look at restaurant menus ahead of time. Taking a look at the menu, and choosing your meal before you arrive at a restaurant increases the likelihood that you will make a healthier choice by not impulse ordering on the spot.
- Plan for some spontaneity. Sometimes things come up or after a long week you want to indulge with your favorite takeout while binge watching a new show. Leave some room in your plan for a few meals a week to go with the flow. Sticking to a plan is much easier when you don’t feel restricted.
The marvels of mindful eating
Do you ever find yourself munching on a snack at your desk while staring at your screen and the next thing you know, you’ve consumed the entire bag? Were you even aware of what you were eating? Mindless eating can occur any time your brain is engaged in other activities. It’s easy to become unaware of what or how much food you’re eating at any given moment.
Our busy lives often means that we rush through or multitask during our meals. Eating in the car, in front of our computer screen or on the couch in front of the TV. We gobble down food, unaware of how much we are consuming or even pausing to determine if we’re still hungry or not. In fact, we often eat for other reasons, not only because we’re hungry. Eating can feel like stress relief or emotional satisfaction when we’re stressed, overwhelmed or even lonely.
Mindful eating is in-the-moment awareness of what you are consuming. It’s about slowing down and observing how the food you’re eating makes you feel - the flavors, the textures, satisfaction and fullness. It’s about paying attention in the moment without any judgment.
Here are some easy tips for mindful eating:
- Plate your food. Even if it’s just a quick snack, arrange a portion for yourself in a nice dish. We eat with our eyes first and making your food visually appealing is a wonderful, loving act of self-care.
- Focus only on your food. Use your dining room or kitchen table and sit down to eat. Free yourself from any other distractions - your phone, the television, and just focus on your plate. Practice engaging all of your senses, noticing how your food looks, how it smells, how it feels in your mouth, the sounds it makes when you take a bite. Take at least 15 minutes to consume your food and thoroughly enjoy every bite.
- Notice how what you eat makes you feel. When you take the time to notice how a particular food makes your body feel, you’re more likely to make healthier choices, feel fuller sooner from eating less food and improve your digestion from slowing down.
- Tune into your hunger and fullness cues. Do you get meaner the hungrier you get? Then when you finally eat, you’re so full that you fall asleep at your desk? Maybe you forget to eat all day and before you know it, you have a splitting headache and have to shut down your whole operation. Paying attention to the feelings you get when you’re hungry and when you’re full can do wonders for your mood and your energy levels throughout the day.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
Drinking enough water is one of the key components of practicing self-care. Water is essential for taking care of your body and your brain. A general rule of thumb is to aim to drink about two thirds of your bodyweight in ounces of water per day. More if you’re particularly active. If you’re not a big water drinker, this may seem like a lot, but the benefits of being sufficiently hydrated definitely outweigh the extra trips to the bathroom throughout the day.
Dehydration can have a number of negative effects on your body and brain including headache, tiredness and brain fog. Drinking enough water can help you perform physically and mentally at your best, having a positive impact on your energy levels and mood.
Many of us have gotten used to getting our liquid intake from everything but good old water. From coffee to juices, teas and energy drinks, the options are endless. As you begin to replace these beverages with water, you’ll notice a marked difference in how you feel. Here are some helpful tips that you can easily incorporate into your routine.
- Drink a glass of water immediately upon waking. Imagine not drinking anything for the next eight hours. Well, that’s essentially what you do every night while you’re sleeping. It’s likely that you start your day dehydrated so drinking a glass of water right when you wake up is a great way to fuel your brain and body and get your energy flowing at the start of the day.
- Invest in a fancy water bottle or insulated cup. Enjoying plain water from a top of the line water bottle or insulated cup to keep it at the perfect temperature is a great way to encourage yourself to consume more throughout the day. Drinking from a larger container and keeping it next to you while you work also helps you track how many ounces you’re drinking and serves as a visual reminder to sip water throughout the day.
- Set reminders. Set reminders on your devices to stop and drink a glass of water. Make it a point to have one during your breaks.
- Add some flavor. A lot of people have trouble drinking more water because, well, water is boring. Make drinking water more fun by adding a squeeze of citrus, a handful of berries, cucumber slices or sprigs of fresh herbs to add flavor. Infusing your water with different flavors can add a touch of spa luxuriousness to your everyday routine.