Mindful Eating – nourishing your body with intent
Eat to live; don’t live to eat!
One of my favourite things about travelling is experiencing new culinary adventures. My least favourite part – returning home a few kilograms heavier (thanks to aforementioned culinary adventures). Although I don’t obsess about my weight or have a goal-weight I like to fit into my clothes. Add to that many risk factors of excess weight – no I’ve never been obese, but I do tend to pile on weight in the wrong places (which put one at risk for many lifestyle diseases).
I don’t believe in diets or quick-fixes. At the same time I LOVE FOOD so I will not deprive myself of what I love either. However, on my holidays I seem to live to eat as opposed to eating to live. I’ve decided to re-adopt a way of eating that has worked wonders for me in the past (only to be disrupted by my erratic work schedule) and has worked for several patients. Nothing magical or mysterious…and an obvious option considering that I try to incorporate mindfulness into every aspect of my life.
The other motivation for sharing this is that I believe once we share something we feel more responsible to see it through. So here’s what I’m doing to eat more mindfully, knowing that the more responsible eating choices will be kinder to my body:
- No emotional eating! I will no longer eat to comfort myself or just because something looks too good not to eat. I will eat when I am hungry and stop when I’m full. As children we forced to finish all the food on our plates but I learned that part of being kinder to your body means not overfilling it.
- Undistracted eating. In order for our body to register that we have eaten, we need to sit down and mindfully eat each meal. When we are distracted (e.g. eating popcorn while watching a movie) we tend to eat a lot more. If you are distracted while eating, you will fail to notice your body’s signal that it is full. One of the most uncomfortable feelings is realising that you’ve eaten too much.
- Eat slower: this is extremely difficult when you have a busy day but in order to enjoy the actual taste of your food and to know when you are full, it helps to eat slower. If you use cutlery, place them down after each bite while you chew your food. Take the time to enjoy each bite. When I trained in mindfulness one the first activities was mindfully eating raisin. Now a raisin isn’t something I’d choose to eat (hence I’m not a fan of hot cross buns or Christmas pudding), but mindfully eating that raisin allowed me to savour it and taste it like never before. I now love ‘looking out’ for flavours in my food…the natural sweetness or the taste of different spices. And that’s what mindfulness is…engaging as many of your senses as possible in the present moment.
- Contemplate what’s on your plate. Mindful eating means being aware of what you are eating – an awareness of the actual process that your meal has undergone from it’s origin to your plate. This awareness increases the likelihood of you eating foods that are as natural as possible; i.e. fresher, less processed and more ethical. For me this means more greens because I know they are nourishing for my body and contain fewer calories. Mindful eating also means that you are more aware of how certain foods make you feel afterwards. So I know that too much of sugar or refined carbohydrates make me feel lethargic, so these are foods that I will limit. I know that drinking water or eating food with more nutrients give me the energy I need to complete all my tasks. So every time you eat something, notice how you feel afterwards. This does not mean depriving yourself of what you love. E.g. I love pizza, but I realised that when I eat mindfully, I am more satisfied with two slices and perhaps some veggies.
- Preparation is key. If there’s one thing I can attest to that aids weight loss, it’s preparation. You can have the most effective diet plan, but if you aren’t adequately prepared you are at risk of eating anything that is convenient when you are hungry. Preparing starts with shopping. Make a list of healthy options before you go out shopping and stick to this list as closely as possible with your meal plan in mind to avoid unnecessary temptations.
- Hydrate! I often get asked about the secret to glowing skin and I must admit that it’s more of what I eat than what I put onto my skin that counts. So water is my drink of choice…and thankfully for me, nothing satiates my thirst better than sparkling water. Another tip is, when you are hungry, drink a glass of water first because thirst is sometimes disguised as hunger. If I’m still hungry, the next question I ask myself is ‘would I eat an apple?”. If the answer is ‘no’ then I know that I’m not physically but emotionally hungry.
Although I don’t have a goal weight, I managed to lose 7kg in the past by eating mindfully. So I have no intention (or need) to lose 7kg but what I do know is that by eating mindfully I’m being kinder to my body and soul.