A More Mindful Relationship With Food Often Starts With Shedding Your Scarcity Mindset. Here’s Why

A More Mindful Relationship With Food Often Starts With Shedding Your Scarcity Mindset. Here’s Why

Whether you want to call it a lifestyle or a health kick, I find that many diets have the opposite effect of their intent. Many of us, at some point in time, have partaken in them, and many of us also know that they don’t work because we have tried more than one repeatedly. But to understand why this is the case requires getting familiar with the scarcity mindset around food that underpins diet culture.

Dieting revolves around focusing our attention on calories and doing everything in our power to limit our caloric intake as much as possible. It’s important to remember that calories are units of energy that our bodies need to function. If we eat 400 calories of food, that is 400 units of energy that our body can then use. On average, the brain uses 240 to 320 calories a day, the liver 200 calories, the heart 440 calories, and both kidneys 420 calories. That’s 1,300 calories total, more than some restrictive diets allow for a daily limit. Our bodies don’t just need calories for movement and exercise. We need them for everyday living.

The restrictive nature of diets creates a scarcity effect. When you spot something rare, valuable, or costly, your mind automatically wants it more than something common or easy to find. This happens because we tend to associate value with rarity. Let’s think about the foods that are on the “do not eat” list. Once we tell ourselves we cannot have that one food or food group (sugar, starchy vegetables, bread, pasta, etc.) it’s going to be all we think about.

When we feel restricted in some way, we bring more and more of our attention to the absence of something. This can also be called the forbidden fruit effect, anything that seems to be unavailable is, as a result, more desirable. This is why the rhetoric of discipline and hard work that is often uttered when talking about weight loss isn’t as easy as it’s made out to be.

Similar to the forbidden fruit or scarcity effect during dieting makes people want “off-limit” foods more, many folks often overeat or binge before the diet begins because they are anticipating a period of dietary restriction, which is known as the last supper effect. It’s all part of a binge-restrict cycle that contributes to yo-yo diet culture.

So what can we do about these feelings that we have during restriction? Let me just say that I am a non-diet dietitian, so I’m not going to advertise a specific way of eating because I believe that our bodies are individual and require different approaches. I do, however, think it would be so incredibly helpful to have an all-foods-fit approach because we are letting our bodies and minds know that no foods are off limits (except for allergies and medical reasons), and there won’t be a need for a “forbidden fruit” or “last supper” effect stage. We should remember that not every food is meant to provide an abundance of nutrients, and all foods provide some form of benefit, even if it’s just happiness or comfort.

I know that finding ways to nourish yourself may now sound daunting but there are indeed sustainable methods that I believe can be beneficial for us to incorporate and improve our health.

How to shed a scarcity mindset around food

Add in nutrients instead of restricting

This is my favorite piece of advice to give because it is often the one that resonates the most with folks. If the focus is addition rather than subtraction, we subconsciously tell ourselves that no food is off limits, and we are less likely to feed into the scarcity mindset or forbidden fruit effect. Figuring out how to add in more vegetables, grains, or protein to our day lets us know that we are still allowed to enjoy the foods we love.

Eat consistently throughout the day

Believe it or not, I find that I spend a good amount of time reminding people to eat, and it’s not only due to someone being on a restrictive diet. We are often working hard, stressed, or maybe taking medications that interfere with our hunger cues. Life happens, but we still need to eat. Eating consistently is also beneficial for keeping our blood sugars stable; it’s better for our digestion and maintaining energy levels throughout the day. This may sound counterproductive or intuitive, but if you notice you are prone to forgetting to eat and bypassing meals, setting up calendar reminders on your phone or computer can help.

Drink enough water

Reminding folks to drink water is also how I spend my time as a dietitian. Water helps lubricate and cushion our joints, spinal cord, and tissues. We also need water to help excrete waste through our perspiration, urination, and bowel movements. And yes, we need water for digestion and nutrient absorption. We are incredibly busy adults, so I understand that we forget, but just like I suggested with meals, it may be helpful to have reminders set up to remind you to drink up. Also, having a large water bottle with you and available may also be a good idea.

Get enough sleep

Our bodies need rest, but why is that? While we sleep, our bodies are working hard, and not really resting, to support healthy brain function and maintain our physical health. Sleep is important for cognition, concentration, productivity, and performance. Sleep deprivation is linked to an increase in heart disease, insulin resistance, and an impaired immune system. So unlike what the popular saying tells us, we shouldn’t wait to sleep until we’re dead.

Work on your stress levels

This is often the most overlooked factor when health is discussed. Stress is normal because we’re human however, long-term stress does have consequences. A constant and ongoing increase in heart rate can cause a risk of hypertension, heart attack, or stroke. Stress can also affect digestion and what nutrients we absorb. Pain, bloating, nausea, and other stomach discomfort can be felt more easily. And as many of us know, stress can cause an increase or decrease in appetite.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with trying to find a way to eat that works for you. I am not shaming anyone who wants to restrict calories or certain foods, but other options can still be health-promoting. Eating is individual, and what works for you may not work for others. However, how you eat should still bring you a level of joy and nourishment. I personally believe joy is a nutrient, so there doesn’t have to be a separation of the two. I will never make someone feel guilty about their choices, but I will say that if you are not on a diet, you don’t have to cheat on one. The only foods you should avoid are the ones you are allergic to, the ones that you need to medically tailor, and the ones you don’t prefer.

Written by Living Smarter

Living Smarter is a leading well-being lifestyle development striving for excellent user experience by providing quality information about trending supplements on the market.

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