How and Why Nutrition and Self-Care Go Hand-in-Hand
Self-care looks different for everyone. But one thing that we can all agree on is that self-care is about nourishment - mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Nutrition is the foundation of good health. Sadly, our diet culture has programmed us to think of food as the enemy, but in reality, it’s the ultimate form of nourishment for the mind and body.
Proper nutrition plays a vital role in your ability to thrive and prioritising it is making an investment in yourself. If you’re looking for a place to start with self-care, consider starting by changing the way you think about food and nutrition.
Why Nutrition is a Part of Mental and Physical Self-Care
When we talk about good nutrition, we’re not talking about dieting or depriving yourself of the foods you love. In fact, sticking to a strict diet tends to be the exact opposite of good nutrition and self-care.
Self-care through good nutrition is about nurturing your body by providing it with the raw materials it needs to stay healthy every day, both mentally and physically. For example, when you don’t eat, your body becomes deprived of glucose, resulting in fatigue, headaches, low energy, and an inability to focus. Nutrition also plays a vital role in the body’s ability to create hormones that control our moods. When your cells aren’t getting the fuel they need, you might feel irritated, depressed, anxious, or stressed.
And, just as important to self-care, food brings you pleasure. It’s meant to be enjoyed and it can provide satisfaction and even comfort. If you find yourself eating something unhealthy when you’re feeling down, don’t be too hard on yourself. Self-compassion is also a form of self-care and that may be what you really need at that moment. When you nourish yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally with good food and nutrition, it’s the ultimate form of self-care.
How to Practice Good Nutrition and Self-Care
Many of us equate self-care with exercise, reading a good book, or practicing a good skincare routine. But those aren’t the only ways to practice self-care. Here’s how you can practice self-care with good nutrition.Take a Multivitamin Every Day
Taking multivitamins every day is an easy way to practice self-care. Nutrient deficiencies are more common than you might think, and they can have a major impact on how you feel mentally, physically, and emotionally every day. For example, B-12 deficiency is quite common, especially in those who eat a plant-based diet. Every cell in your body needs B-12 to function optimally and it’s essential for brain and nerve function. Magnesium deficiency can contribute to diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and more. And vitamin D deficiency may lead to bone loss, muscle weakness, and a weakened immune system.
Although you could technically get all of your nutrients from your diet, many of us don’t eat as well as we should every single day. Taking a multivitamin is an easy way to ensure that all of your bases are covered. That said, all multivitamins are not created equal. According to nutrition experts at SmartyPants organic vitamins, you should always choose “100% natural supplements in their most bioavailable forms.”
Avoid any product that contains cheap fillers or synthetic ingredients to ensure that you’re nourishing your body, rather than taking in something that might be harmful.Practice Mindful Eating
Let’s be real. Most of us make a habit of eating in front of the computer, the television, or with a smartphone in hand. When was the last time you really paid attention to what you were eating, or who you were eating it with? Eating mindfully in an environment that’s free of distractions and focusing on the food and people you’re enjoying your meal with promotes a more nurturing experience. You’re more likely to take your time with your food and recognise when you’re full so you don’t overeat.
Eating more slowly and mindfully also improves your digestion, which means you’ll absorb the nutrients in your food more efficiently. So, why not make your meals part of your self-care routine? Light a candle, listen to some soft music, and enjoy the peaceful solitude or some good company. Slow down, take a breath, and nurture your mind and body.Prioritise a Balanced Diet
Self-care is about balance, and good nutrition is part of that equation. Instead of depriving yourself of certain foods, prioritise balance in your meals. It’s important to include a wide variety of foods in your diet because some have nutrients that boost the mood, others provide energy, some help to balance your hormones, and others promote healthy sleep.
There is no one specific superfood that’s going to give you everything you need. So, eat those healthy fats, complex carbs, lean protein, and colourful fruits and veggies to nurture your mind and body. Go ahead and have a scoop or two of ice cream but be sure to balance it later with some healthy fruit, nuts, or leafy green vegetables. You’ll notice fewer cravings and you’ll feel more fulfilled after your meals.Eat When You’re Hungry
Eating when you’re hungry is an essential part of good nutrition and self-care. It keeps your blood sugar stable, which means you’ll have more energy, better mental focus, and you’ll feel more emotionally stable throughout the day.
In fact, even the simple act of preparing your food can be meditative and relaxing. Eating a nourishing and nutritious meal is the ultimate form of self-care. Recognize your hunger and honour yourself by respecting it. Listen to your body when it tells you it’s time to eat.Limit Sugar and Refined Carbs
While balance is important and you should never deprive yourself of the foods you love, there are a lot of negative health effects associated with sugar and refined carbs. Not only do they contribute to unhealthy weight gain, but they may also be a key factor in depression, heart disease, and possibly even cancer.
That means limiting sugar and refined carbs are important for self-care, so enjoy them only in moderation. Better yet, instead of automatically reaching for that cookie, consider whether there’s a healthy alternative that would satisfy your craving for something sweet, such as fruit or dark chocolate. And when you’re craving carbs, focus on healthy, complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables. That way you’ll be satisfying your carb craving and nourishing your body at the same time.Nurture Your Gut
Your gut is full of tiny microorganisms that play a major role in your mental and physical health, particularly your moods and immune function. And, when your gut is healthy, you can absorb nutrients from your food more efficiently, which affects every system in the body.
Nurture your gut health by eating more prebiotic foods, like garlic and onions, which feed the healthy bacteria in your gut. And be sure to include plenty of probiotic foods daily, such as kimchi, yoghurt, and sauerkraut, to introduce new healthy bacteria into your system.
The Bottom Line
It’s time to start thinking of food and nutrition as nourishment and fuel for your body. Remember, it’s all about finding balance. Don’t beat yourself up for having a slice of cake now and then, just be sure you’re eating a variety of healthy foods to balance it out.