Embracing Conscious Consumption: A Path to Wellness Amidst Stress

Embracing Conscious Consumption: A Path to Wellness Amidst Stress

Published on Wednesday, April 10, 2024 by Brooke Orr

How to Cultivate Conscious Consumption in Your Daily Life

Stress Awareness Month could not have come at a better time. Stress used to be a factor that ebbed and flowed; however, lately, many have experienced consistently high-stress levels. The Harris Poll, a survey on behalf of the American Psychological Association, found that high percentages of Americans are stressed about health (HELLO, we experienced a pandemic), politics and the state of our country, social justice issues, money, and much more.  

High levels of stress impact many areas of health, including stomach issues, mental health disorders, lower immune system, increased inflammation (a root of many diseases)... When solutions to problems feel out of our control, stress arises. A common coping mechanism is to hyperfocus on something that feels controllable. A lot of people focus their attention on nutrition, which is understandable in light of the abundance of food messaging we are bombarded with, and claims like these: Eat this to Look Younger, This Diet will Prevent Illness, These Foods are Toxic/Unclean, War on Obesity, Thin is Best… The problem with hyper-focusing on nutrition is that it then becomes stressful and possibly LESS nourishing.  

When food is savored and enjoyed, it becomes a source of empowerment. It is more easily digested and absorbed, provides more satisfaction, and may improve overall health. There is a growing movement to cancel diet/orthorexic food culture and instead focus on nurturing your body with conscious consumption. This approach to eating is flexible and nonjudgmental and can look different every day, depending on the challenges and landscape of the day. 

How to Incorporate Conscious Consumption into Your Lifestyle:

  1. Discover your why. In this step, you practice curiosity to define why you eat and exercise the way you do. For example, are your choices the result of no plan at all (you don’t really choose your food; you eat what is available, eat in front of the TV, in the car, or while you work)? Do you have external rules but don’t know where they came from (don’t eat after 8, no carbs, etc)? Do the foods you eat depend on the number on the scale (if the number is up, you restrict; if it is low, you allow yourself a few extra pleasures, lose goals, fear, mindlessness, etc.). Understanding your why can help you assess if changes are needed to live your best life.
  2. Once you understand why you eat and exercise how you do, evaluate if it aligns with your values- mind, body, and soul. For example- are you team green but constantly use plastic water bottles because you are unprepared, or do you like supporting locals but haven’t found the time to visit a farmers market? Are you having issues with GERD and want to feel better but haven’t slowed down to track your triggers, or do you run 5 miles a day but actually hate it and have joint pain but do it for weight control? Take the time to figure out what matters most to you. 
  3. Our bodies are in a constant state of flux, and so are our dietary and exercise needs. Conscious consumption liberates us from rigid rules and allows for flexibility in food choices and exercise. If you are working more hours that day, you may need more carbohydrates for energy. If you are having an IBS flare-up, you may need to stick to simple basic foods for a bit. This flexibility allows you to fuel your body for what it needs now, not what you think it should be.
  4. Gratitude and Appreciation. Pausing with meals to appreciate the process and those involved in it to bring your food to the table. Eating slowly and enjoying the flavor and taste of the food helps with digestion and satisfaction. 
  5. Self-Compassion and Acceptance. There is no such thing as a “perfect” diet. Mindful consumption is NOT about judgment. It is about understanding, grace, and kindness applied to how you think about yourself and care for yourself with food. It's about accepting that you're doing your best, and that's enough.

In conclusion, as Stress Awareness Month reminds us to pay attention to our mental and physical well-being, it's crucial to recognize the impact of stress on our relationship with food. Hyper-focusing on nutrition can often lead to added stress and detract from the nourishing experience that food should be. By embracing conscious consumption and mindful eating practices, we empower ourselves to make choices that align with our values and promote overall health and wellness.

Let's cultivate a compassionate and flexible approach to food that honors our bodies' ever-changing needs and fosters a positive and peaceful relationship with what we eat. This is not easy to do, but all of us can move towards that goal by bringing our awareness into the body and monitoring what messages we choose to see and listen to. You may even find it helpful to work with an intuitive eating coach or join an online support group like this one.

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