Weight gain is often deeper than simply eating junk food. The how and when we eat is just as important and it is usually driven by our emotions and mindfulness. How many of us eat to socialize, to relieve stress, to make ourselves feel better/comfort our emotions or to satisfy cravings?
Mindful eating is the practice of becoming aware of your experiences, cravings and physical cues when eating. It simply invites us to be present while cooking or eating, allowing us to truly savour our food without any judgment, guilt, anxiety or inner commentary
In my practice one of the assessments I do is a diet history and food frequency assessment. Often people don’t remember what they ate yesterday it isn’t difficult to understand why as for most of us a typical day looks like this: Wake up… Coffee first… Shower… Get kids ready for school… Feed them breakfast… Grab something to eat on the run… At work… Eat lunch while being on your laptop or in a meeting… Pick up kids from school… Eat kids leftover lunch box while driving… Make dinner… Eat dinner… Kids to bed… Clean up and do a few more work things… Sleep…. What did I actually eat today.
We are oblivious to what we put into our mouths and only see it as a way to still the hunger pains. In life’s busyness we have forgotten to sit down and smell the lasagne let alone enjoy it.
The practice of mindful eating has been around for centuries. The benefits of mindful eating are weight loss, reduce binge eating and can help you feel better. When we eat too fast the signal from your stomach to your brain saying “You are full you can stop eating is delayed” which can lead to overeating and binge eating, causing that feeling of uncomfortableness and then off course the guilt for overeating. This is a vicious cycle and studies have reported that eating mindfully can reduce physiological distress such as depression, anxiety, stress and eating behaviours including binge eating.
The practice of mindful eating gives you back the control of your impulses and emotions. You learn the difference between emotional hunger vs physical hunger and how food affects your mood and energy throughout the day. Mindful eating will transform the way you think about food and set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating.
“By eating mindfully, you restore your attention and slow down, making eating an intentional act instead of an automatic one.”
So how do we do it?
• Before you start eating, take 3 deep breaths and halfway through your meal put down your knife and fork and take 3 deep breaths again
• Eat slowly without distraction… Yes put away your phone and don’t eat in front of the TV
• Chew your food well. Remember when your grandmother use to say chew 20 times before swallowing, well turns out she was right all along.
• Listening to your hunger cues and satiety cues
• Engaging your sense while eating they include color, smells, textures and flavours
Remember that we do and must eat to enjoy our food BUT most importantly we eat for our health and well-being. “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” Hippocrates
• Becoming in tune with your body as to how food affects your health and feelings
• Appreciating your food and that we have food abundantly as many people don’t have that luxury
For some of us this a completely foreign topic which can be overwhelming, begin with one meal per day to practice these tips. Once you feel more comfortable you can implement it during your other meals as well.
Mindful eating can be an incredibly powerful tool to regain your health and heal your relationship with food.
Article Contributed by Ezette Oosthuizen – Registered Dietician & TROVE Wellness Lead Dietician