13 Nov How Gratitude Can Improve Your Exercise & Eating Habits from New York City Dietitian Nutritionist
It’s November. Gratitude is trending. Which can feel like the kale craze without the bitter aftertaste. It can also feel a bit … forced.
I’m not being cynical. But I think it’s important to be real. Some days are simply … hard. And searching for that silver-lining is maddening. Also, some days, it’s just fine to be grumpy. But grumpy doesn’t negate gratitude.
Gratitude is defined as a “strong feeling of appreciation to someone or something for what that person or thing has done to help you.” What makes gratitude complex is that it takes mindfulness. Gratitude is pausing to notice. In a world that runs non-stop, this moment of pause, this moment of awe, can be hard to grasp.
This takes mindfulness. Mindful eating and exercising can become part of our daily health habits. Mindfulness leads to gratitude – becoming aware of where our food comes from, thankful for the hard work people did to grow, harvest, and bring it to us. It’s about being aware of our bodies, their movement, their potential.
Gratitude, then, becomes an intrinsic part of our daily life – every time we move, eat, drink, play. Every bite and movement nourish us, and this is something to celebrate, even when we are grumpy. And by doing so, we improve exercise and eating habits. We shift from auto-drive to meaningful living.
- S.T.O.P.: Stop. Take three breaths. Observe. Proceed. Digestion improves when we eat in a calm state. This means taking the time to sit down and eat breakfast, instead of taking everything to go, on the go. Everybody has time to sit and eat. I refuse to believe that we’re all so busy we can’t find those quiet spaces. There’s a Zen proverb: When walking walk. When eating eat. It’s pretty basic and fundamental for health.
- Mindfulness reduces cravings. When was the last time you sat down to watch TV and eaten through an entire tub of popcorn or bag of chips? You probably don’t even remember eating them? When we take the time to look at our food before putting it in our mouths, we curb cravings. We listen better to our body signals. And we put the bag of chips down.
- The five senses. Think about the colors, textures, flavors, sounds, and smells of the food on your plate. Enjoy the cool, bumpy feel of celery and watery crunch in your mouth. Taking the time to really notice food is a great way to appreciate every bite.
- Listen to your body! Your body is talking to you all the time! The craving for movement (many athletes get that tingling feeling telling them to get out and run!), the tension and stretch of muscles while doing yoga, the slight burn when exercising, even the growl of your stomach when it’s hungry. Being in tune to what our bodies need and responding is key to better movement, better health.
- Be kind to yourself. November 13 (TODAY!) is World Kindness Day. Start with being kind to yourself. That inner voice in your head? Talk like a 4-year-old wearing a Batman T-shirt. You’re invincible and beautiful! All that other stuff that’s piled up over the years in your brain telling you otherwise needs to go in the trash.
Gratitude is critical to appreciating our bodies – what they do for us every day. We are diversely abled, but I think all my readers can relate to many of these things: Our hands allow us to squeeze our favorite toddler’s hand; our arms allow us to hug; our legs allow us to walk, run, jog, dance, play tag, zombie stomp; our eyes allow us to appreciate the colors of fall; our noses allow us to take trips back in time to our grandmother’s home, to the first time we held a puppy, to a backpacking trip.
So, raise your glass (cup) to gratitude. Even if you are feeling surly!