What if there was more to losing weight, overcoming emotional eating and beating your cravings than worrying about food, calories, fat grams, macros and micro nutrients? Would that seem too good to be true?
The thing I have come to learn over the years of working with clients and in my own personal experience, is that our diet- the food we eat- plays only a very small part in losing weight and living a healthy life.
For long-lasting success, we actually need to stop the dieting mentality and recognise that we all have a unique bio-individuality. Instead of relying on a diet book or the latest weight loss trend to teach us how to eat, we need to learn how to intuitively listen to what our unique body needs. When we only follow a prescriptive plan, it will usually leave us feeling more confused and lost about what is ok to eat and what is not. Instead, if we can start tuning into the natural way our body works, then we can begin eating mindfully and according to what our body is telling us it really needs at any given time.
It is when this mindset shift happens from passively following to actively listening that we will also realise there are so many external factors that are aside from the foods we eat that have an impact on how we progress with weight loss. These other important lifestyle factors have a far greater impact on how we feel, our self-worth and what we decide to eat than anything else.
I call these our Soul Foods- the things we need to have in our lives in order to feel nourished. Too often, we turn to food for our nourishment, but it won’t matter how healthy our food is, or how balanced our meals are, if our soul foods are not being satisfied.
It is by nourishing our soul foods each and every day in some way that we are able to balance our mind, body and soul and start to really live our lives rather than be controlled by strict diet plans and confused by disordered eating that only causes us anxiety around food and emotional ups and downs.
Soul Food #1 Relationships
As humans, we need to have people in our lives. We also feel most worthy and loved when we have special relationships that we nurture, with people who make us feel good about ourselves. Relationships do not just mean those which are romantic in nature. It also includes your family, close friends and colleagues.
Think about it- when you have a healthy relationship with your partner, you feel supported, happy and whole. But the moment you get into a fight or things go rocky, then what happens to the way you feel? You might feel stressed, anxious, worried and lacking in self-esteem. And what is the first thing you will do? Probably turn to your comfort foods to fill the void or to make things better in your mind.
The same goes if you have a crappy relationship with your boss, or get into a disagreement with a close friend or with someone in your family. I encourage you to reach out to your loved ones, be sure to spend quality time with them regularly and tell them how much you love them.
Healthy relationships equal a healthy mind and soul which in turn equals you wanting to take care of yourself and to feed yourself well rather than bingeing.
When you eat well, your body works well, and you will find it much easier to lose weight without even trying.
Soul Food # 2 Movement
The human body has been designed to move and we thrive when we do. You need to move your body every day in some way for about 20-30 minutes, and in doing so, you will start to feel amazing.
Movement stirs up the endorphins inside you, and these happy hormones help you to feel nourished. Moving your body also helps you to get in touch with the way your body moves and all its quirks.
Different exercise will result in different reactions in your body and I encourage you to mix up the way that you move so you can find what works best for you as well as to provide variety to your movements which your body will benefit from.
Movement should be about exactly that- getting physical and enjoying yourself. Don’t think about doing exercise because it will help to burn calories. Do it because it feels good!
I mix up the way that I move my body in a week. I do yoga twice a week, a fit ball class, I enjoy doing long, slow walks on the treadmill, I love a good RPM class and I also add in HIIT circuits for when I need to do something quick and energising.
To keep up good moving habits, you need to find a time of day that works best for you. Over the years I have exercised at all times of day and night to fit in with my schedule at that time. My current lunchtime movement sessions are really working well for me right now, but experiment to see what works for you.
You will find if you can get into a routine of moving in ways that make you feel good that you will feel nourished and satisfied with yourself and it will encourage weight loss too. The more you do it, the more the body will crave it and the more benefits you’ll enjoy – so indulge in this life-enhancing habit as often as you can.
Soul Food #3 Passion & Purpose
Do you know your life purpose, your passion, the thing that lights you up and makes you feel fulfilled and happy when you do it? If you don’t know this then it is likely you will find it hard to reach your health and weight loss goals.
You see, passion and purpose are essential for feeling overall well-being. If you are stuck in a job that sucks the life out of you, if you don’t get to play and pursue the things that make you feel happy, then you will inevitably turn to food to fill this void.
You need to find the things that you love to do, and go about doing them with gusto, as often as possible.
Maybe you know your life purpose but are not going about following it- I encourage you to make the time to make it happen.
When you are absorbed in doing something that you love, you won’t feel bored, and you will be less likely to reach for unhealthy foods to provide you with happiness and satisfaction.
If you don’t enjoy your job but you can’t just leave it, then I encourage you to find meaning in what you do- make your work something that you love to do, find positive things to focus on and go about your work with gusto and enthusiasm so you can make it more enjoyable and pleasurable.
It can be useful to think back to the things you loved to do as a kid- what were those hobbies, interests and ways to play that you enjoyed? If it has been a long time since you did any of those things, it is probably time to start pursuing them again so you can feel purposeful in the time you have each day.
If you can find your passion and purpose, your will feel alive and will want nothing more than to be strong and healthy so you can go about doing the things you love- which will mean eating well and looking after yourself.
Soul Food # 4 Rest and Relaxation
We all need to have time out. We must give our body time to rest and relax or we will suffer the opposite- stress. It is crazy how much of a negative impact stress can have on our overall well-being.
Stress can impact how well you sleep, how well you metabolise and digest the food you eat and how you feel overall. In order to manage stress, you need to rest- meaning 7-8 hours of good quality sleep a night- and relax by doing things that do not take a strain on your mind.
Think watching your favourite TV show to wind down in the evening, reading a book, hanging out with your partner and not doing much at all, having some time in the sun, playing and generally having fun.
Don’t neglect your rest and relaxation if you want to lose weight and feel great.
Soul Food # 5 Spirituality
Finding a spiritual connection can be one of the most powerful ways that you can diminish your cravings for the superficial aspect of life, and to instead find a life with meaning. Too often we are looking for something, searching for why we are feeling less than whole.
Really, all this lack of fulfilment means is that we have not taken time to go within and find the inner spiritual connection. Deepening your spiritual practice is so powerful in so many ways and can help you to find inner harmony in a world where we are constantly surrounded by chaos and bombarded by noise and images from every direction.
When you have more depth in your life through a spiritual connection you will feel more nourished than you ever can by eating any amount of food.
A spiritual practice can mean different things to different people. It can be a traditional prayer to God and visits to a place of worship, it can mean regular meditation (5-10 minutes every day is better than longer sessions just a few times a week or even more sporadically), or just increasing your awareness through spending time each day focussing on your breath and giving thanks.
Do whatever works for you to help give your mind space to become more connected with your life. In doing this, you can cope with stress, anxiety and other emotions more effectively and tune into the nuances of living in this world.
You will also be able to tap into your authentic self- something a lot of us have lost connection with in our busy lives. It is this lack of connection that leads many of us to turn to food and to have disordered eating patterns as we use food as a crutch to support ourselves and our confusion caused by the disconnect and discontent.
Soul Food #6 Self-Care
Self-care is a bit of a buzzword these days, but it is with good reason. I challenge that this is perhaps the most important of all the Soul Foods when it comes to recovering from emotional eating disorder and food addiction.
When you practice self-care, it is a form of self-love. If you can’t love yourself, then who can? We live in a world these days that is fast and furious and where we are thrown so many pressures to be a certain person and to behave a certain way. It is no wonder we are lacking in love for ourselves with all the comparison-itis that goes on.
When we can learn to love ourselves, it leads to acceptance, which then leads to respect. With respect for who we are and for our bodies, we are much more easily able to look after ourselves and to treat our mind, body and soul with the loving kindness that it deserves.
Rather than negative self-talk and putting ourselves down, we will come from a place of positivity and love and compassion. People who behave this way don’t need to binge eat on all the junk or torture their body with starvation or over-eating.
Start implementing self-care every day as a matter of essential well-being and notice how that changes your entire perspective on life.
When you begin focusing your attention on these six Soul Foods rather than obsessing over food all the time you will start to feel more energy, more happiness and you will start to have a life and body that you are in love with. When you have more positive feelings than negative ones you won’t reach for foods that support the negative feelings such as cookies, chips, tubs of ice cream and jars of peanut butter.
When you feel great, you will have a self-image that is strong and powerful and you will choose foods that support those beliefs like fresh fruits and savoury vegetables. In other words, when you realize what positive things you bring to the world and how your purpose in this world is so important, your eating habits- and the weight- naturally shift.
What do you think about these soul foods? Which one(s) are lacking in your life right now? Leave a message in the comments below!