- June 25, 2020

Hey Austinites! Here’s How You Can Use Mindful Eating for Optimizing Health During COVID-19 and Beyond

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Eating a healthy diet during normal times is challenging enough. Eating healthy during a pandemic when you are feeling stressed and worried adds a whole new level of difficulty. You’re likely snacking frequently, consuming a lot more social media, dwelling over stressful thoughts, and out of your normal routines. 

Some of us are trying to continue normal health routines. While others are reevaluating our health, which is normal given a global pandemic. No matter where you are in your health, we could all use some guidance right about now. We’ve teamed up with Austin local wellness enthusiast, Jasmina Carbaugh (also known as Well With Mina). She’s sharing her vast knowledge on eating and staying well not just amid a pandemic but for whatever comes after.

Here’s what Mina has to say about mindful eating-especially during COVID-19

As we continue to spend more time indoors it can become much easier to eat out of boredom. If you are working from home this can be especially true because food rewards, like snacking throughout the day, can make you feel temporarily better about being tied to your computer for hours on end. In general, healthy eating continues to be a complicated topic among health and nutrition professionals because no one can seem to agree on what it means. But, does it need to be? I think not! 

Here’s why – Eating is instinctual. It’s just that our modern food environment has hijacked our instincts and taste buds to the point that we can’t trust our own cravings and hunger/satiety signals anymore. So, what can you do to make eating well simple and habitual? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not complicated and somewhat obvious. Avoid processed junk and eat real food. 

Most of the time processed foods are consumed due to our hectic schedules but living in a city like Austin gives us the advantage of having healthy food easily within reach. Austin is full of places like Picnik where the food isn’t just good but good for you!

It seems simple enough, yet this approach is easily forgotten in a world dominated by diet culture messaging coming at you from every angle. The secret to doing this successfully is to reset your body so that it functions properly. A convenient way to start is by using a healthy meal planning service like Austin’s very own, Snap Kitchen! Meals are clean, made with fresh ingredients, and perfectly portioned so that you can have a healthy meal ready to eat and avoid snacking on anything processed. 

Once this happens, you can relearn how to trust your cravings and hunger cues. Cravings in the right setting are your body’s way of letting you know what to eat to get certain nutrients, but in today’s processed food environment they misguide us into eating food devoid of the very nutrients our bodies are looking for.

The best way to reset your system is to understand how your body works and why it does what it does.

Two important hormones to know about are leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is a protein hormone that lowers your appetite, while ghrelin is a peptide hormone that grows your appetite. There are a lot of factors that influence how these hormones function to control your feelings of hunger and fullness like stress, sleep, dehydration, excess carbohydrates, mental health, and visual cues (seeing trigger foods). 

All of these things can influence your leptin sensitivity, meaning how well your leptin signaling is working. When you’re too stressed, cortisol becomes elevated and this can cause your leptin sensitivity to decrease causing you to lose control of when to stop eating. On the other hand, eating too much food, as well as emotional eating, can cause you to lose the ability to know when you’re actually hungry versus eating out of boredom or to satisfy an emotional need. The best way to achieve healthy eating habits is to have proper functioning leptin and ghrelin, and the most effective way to support this process is to check all of the boxes discussed above. One of my favorite ways to combat stress is with meditation and yoga. Local yoga instructor, @atxyogagirl on Instagram, has been doing an amazing job at live streaming her classes so that Austinites can get their Zen on without having to attend a class in person. 

Healthy eating is about so much more than just diet alone.

It’s about looking at your health as a whole, interconnected system and ensuring that all facets of life are being nurtured and nourished. This is crucial for enjoying good health for life, especially during these unusual times when our schedules and routines have been thrown for a loop. Mindful eating is a great way to combat stress and poor eating habits, and it empowers you to be in control of your health and wellness long-term. I hope you enjoyed the first topic for this summertime wellness series. Look out for next week’s article on the benefits of seasonal eating and buying local from some of my favorite purveyors like, Farmhouse Delivery and Shirttail Creek Farm.

Author – Jasmina Carbaugh, Primal Health Coach Institute Student & Wellness Enthusiast

Follow Mina on her Instagram: @wellwithmina