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Today, I’ve been thinking about how we can nourish ourselves during the pandemic.

Every time you eat is an opportunity to nourish yourself.

Do you ever feel like you get into a routine of just eating to stop being hungry? Or eating to feel a little better? Or maybe just eating because you are bored? Mindless eating. Eating without really considering how it is impacting your whole self?

I know I do. I connect chocolate with feeling better. I connect fresh baked cookies with love. Sometimes, I just wish I wasn’t grumpy and hungry, so I just eat whatever is easiest and at hand.

But, when I do that, I also notice that I tend to get into a cycle of not feeling great. Honestly, I recently noticed that I was feeling pretty low – both mentally and physically. I took a step back and thought about how I had been nourishing myself. I realized that I had eaten some chocolate after a particularly hard day, and then the next day, I reached for more comfort food. That turned into me going off of my usual healthy diet for a whole week… I had been following the comfort food diet instead.

After I thought about it, it made sense to me that I was also feeling a bit down because there is a direct correlation between what we put in our bodies and our mental outlook. The Enteric Nervous System, or our gut, is sometimes referred to as our “second brain.” There are hundreds of millions of neurons in our gut, plus it plays a big part in our immune system. Additionally, it is home to 95% of our body’s serotonin, which is the key hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness. So, the gut helps us stay healthy physically and mentally.

If we feed our gut healthy, whole foods like fruit, vegetables, nuts, and also add in omega 3’s like flax seeds and salmon (which are also great for your heart!), plus probiotics, you nourish not only your gut, but also your brain. These food give your body the energy, vitamins, and good microbes to help keep it (& your brain) functioning well.

However, if we feed our gut processed foods that are depleted of their nutrients, sugaralcohol, and other “comfort” foods, we end up getting a quick “feel good” fix, but trigger an immune response in our gut. This is because these items that we have consumed are viewed by our gut as foreign substances. So, the gut sends out inflammation into our bodies to fight off the foreign substances. The gut is trying to protect the body. Add this to many of us already being a bit more sedentary and not sleeping well due to the pandemic, and we can start to feel run down, depressed, and stressed. If we continue these patterns, then the continual inflammation can cause long-term damage to our bodies.

I learned about the connection between the gut and the brain through my training in mindfulness, through the work Dr. Mark Hyman (check out his book, Food: What the Heck Should I Eat?) who is a doctor who practices Functional Medicine, the work of of dietician Sarah Schutzberger and a webinar she hosted called How to Choose Foods to Nourish Your Trauma Recovery, as well as my 20+ years of being vegan(ish). I have always had an interest in how what I choose to eat can be a means of living a compassionate lifestyle, but the more I learn about how what I eat can also impact how I feel, the more I want to truly nourish my body and mind.

I stepped back after my week of comfort eating, and really thought about how my mindless eating had impacted my mental well-being. In that very moment, I made a change to my diet.

  • I stopped baking all the sugar laden treats and reached for fruit instead.
  • I ate more leafy greens, veggies, and lots of mushrooms (vitamin B + D and antioxidants, please).
  • I also started eating healthier comfort foods – like lentil & veggie soup. A good soup can be nourishing to the body and mind.

I also made sure that I got in my daily yoga and meditation practice to combat pandemic sedentary habits and help me sleep better. It only took a couple of days for me to shake off my blahs and start feeling more like my positive self again. I know it’s okay to have those comfort foods every once and a while, but I’m going to be careful not to make them a habit because I want to continue to feel good in both my mind and body.

What about you? What are your nourishing your body with? How are you caring for your gut and your mind? Start with a small change and see how it makes you feel. Have some fruits and veggies. Eat a little bowl of soup. Go for a walk or do some yoga. Relax without screens before bedtime so you can sleep more peacefully. Try these out and see if they help you fight the pandemic blahs, too.

May you have peace within,
Julia 

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