This is a guest post by Neil Welsh, Nutrition Expert
I don’t about you, but I don’t have time to sit in silence and really appreciate the weight of an avocado before I eat it. I mean REALLY appreciate the weight of an avocado.
For many people, this is part of their mindful eating, but great results can still be achieved by cherry picking elements of mindful eating that we can actually use in our everyday lives.
Applying some of the principles of mindfulness to the way we eat can have profound effects on not just our health on the whole but on our weight, our energy and our self-control with food…. and one of the best bits is that all this can be achieved through changes in HOW we eat, not WHAT we eat.
Mindfulness is essentially the process of bringing one’s attention to the experiences occurring at this present moment. It refers to living in the present and concentrating on what is happening now rather than being distracted by what has happened in the past or what will happen in the future.
Mindful eating sounds fancy but it basically means actually paying attention to what the hell we are eating and how we are eating it! Many of us, especially parents, find ourselves eating for fuel on a day to day basis, not for pleasure. Meal times are very different now to how they were before we had kids. The days of enjoying a mushroom risotto whilst sipping on white wine, have been replaced by smashing back a bowl of spag bol whilst running crowd control over our children.
Having young kids almost forces parents to eat fast. Ridiculously fast. I remember one meal, when our children were very young, where we had spent time lovingly preparing a meal before literally inhaling it in four minutes whilst trying to help our children eat, mop up spills, and pick up various pieces of food from the floor.
This routine goes on for a long time and forms a habit. Before we know it, our children are more self-sufficient in their eating and spill a little less stuff, but we continue to inhale our food. This has a very real effect on our bodies and our relationship with food.
So what elements of mindful eating can we cherry pick that fit with our everyday lives?
Following is a list of small changes that can have a big impact:
Start being mindful in the supermarket
What you buy will affect what you eat. Don’t sleep walk around the supermarket, giving into your appetite at the time, being sold by the bargains on the shelves and the allure of the crafty food marketers. It’s not rocket science to pick the foods that are good for us but it is easy to be led off track when pushing the supermarket trolley.
Think about your ingredients and where your food has come from
In this day and age it is probably unreasonable to expect people to consume absolutely no processed food. Technically, bagged lettuce is a processed food. We should, however, give a glance to the ingredients on packets just to make sure we know what we are eating. If there’s anything on that list you can’t pronounce, you probably don’t want to eat it.
The source of food, especially meat, is equally important. More and more people are opting to eat less meat and when they do eat meat, they tend to eat high quality products. Poor quality meat comes from animals that are fed crap (quite literally). The meat can pass on chemicals that they are fed, it is less nutritious and the whole process can cause greater pollution to our planet. Better quality meat tastes better and will be better your health. The saying “You get what you pay for” is possibly truer when it comes to food than anything else! Yummy, this £1 “beef” lasagne ready meal tastes delicious….!
Be aware of your hunger
Have you ever found yourself staring into the fridge and then not really remembering why you were there? I have, and still do! Many of us consume extra calories every day through habit. Often we mistake thirst for hunger and reach for food rather than water, but often we eat just out of habit. That mid afternoon snack is a habit from Monday to Friday whilst at work, but a change in environment at the weekend doesn’t result in the same trigger to head for the vending machine at 3:00 on a Saturday or Sunday. Sometimes we eat because we’re bored. Being mindful and being aware of the sensations and feelings of our body can actually help us to determine if we are hungry or not and prevent us from reaching for those extra calories.
When we do eat, we should be aware of how we eat
Eating food too quickly messes with the body’s digestion process. At the very early stages of digestion, the process of chewing our food breaks the food down and makes it easier to digest. Digestion actually starts in the mouth where salivary amylase breaks down starch. When we inhale food, we more or less bypass these early two stages of digestion, putting more pressure on the later stages.
Chewing our food has a huge impact. It is recommended we chew eat mouthful between 20 and 30 times, noticing the change in flavour with the food ending up well and truly mushed, thus giving your digestion a head start. Take smaller bites and slow down. Finish your mouthful and even put your cutlery down before taking another mouthful.
Next time you eat, see if you do this; as you take a mouthful, try and notice what has happened to your previous mouthful. Has it been swallowed or are you still swallowing? Many of us, especially parents who eat fast, have found ourselves in the habit of swallowing food as they’re putting more food in their mouth, creating an almost conveyor belt effect to our stomach. We need to slow down when we eat. Eat until we’re satisfied, not full. Serve smaller portions to and only go back for more if you need to, not just because you want to.
It can take the brain up to 20 minutes to register fullness. If you eat until you feel full (you will probably be heading for a pasta coma), you have almost certainly over eaten.
Don’t stop being mindful at the end of the meal
Be aware of how you feel after a meal and understand how food affects your mood and energy throughout the day. Meals should make you feel refreshed and energised, not tired and sluggish. Work out which meals are having a positive effect on you and which meals are having not such a positive effect.
In summary, great results can be achieved by:
- Resisting the temptation to buy crap from the supermarket!
- Choosing to buy quality food.
- Being conscious of your hunger.
- Taking small bites of smaller portions, chewing them and eating slowly.
- Being aware of how the food we eat makes us feel.
There’s no need to REALLY feel the weight of an avocado…. or give up carbs to hit your weight goals. Simple mindfulness could be the start of something beautiful.
Do you envy other mums at school pick up? Ever wonder what they eat to look the way they do? You eat pretty healthily, right? But for some reason the bathroom scales fill you with dread!
You can be the mum that others silently envy at school pick up!
Learn what really affects your weight, how you can control it and how to make it never be a problem again. Best of all, you can teach it to your kids so they never have a problem with their weight. That sound good? Grab a copy of The Ultimate Guide to Nutrition for Mums with Young Kids: http://neilwelshnutrition.com/ultimate-guide/