Our columnist explains how to eat in tune with your body’s needs
In our culture, eating is often ‘mindless’. This means that we simply eat food without focusing on what we’re eating. We may stuff lunch into our mouths while we’re at work or wolf our food down while getting the kids ready for school or doing some other task. We eat while watching television so that more of our attention is focused on what we’re watching than what we’re eating. Or we may ‘comfort eat’ simply because food is there and it makes us feel good, rather than eating because we feel genuinely hungry.
Mindless eating can contribute to: weight gain; poor nourishment, digestive problems and an unhealthy relationship with food, where you come to see food as just fuel or comfort rather than a source of nourishment.
Mindful eating involves increasing your awareness of what you’re eating. This includes asking yourself whether you are really hungry and why you want to eat; and when you are eating, focusing fully on the food, tasting and appreciating every mouthful. Eating mindfully can bring benefits for your weight, your digestion, your stress levels and your overall health.
1. Before you eat, ask yourself whether you are really hungry. Does your body really need to eat that piece of chocolate, that piece of fruit or those nuts? Even a healthy food eaten in a mindless way can be a bad choice. If instead you’re craving comfort or pleasure, is there any other way this need could be satisfied?
2. When you sit down to eat, take a minute or two to appreciate the aromas of the food before starting to eat. Aromas start to activate the body’s digestive process and release saliva and digestive enzymes to help break down the food.
3. Don’t turn on the television, scroll through your favourite social media site, or even read a newspaper while eating. All of these things distract your attention away from the food you are eating. Eating with friends or family is good, but avoid conversations that are heated or stressful, as this also takes your focus away from the food.
4. Instead, aim to focus just on the food you’re eating. Chew every mouthful slowly consciously and appreciate the flavours, aromas and textures.
5. During the meal, pay attention to the signals your body is sending you about how full you are. Do you really need to eat the rest of those potatoes or that pasta when you’re already feeling stuffed, or is your body telling you to stop eating?
6. If you’re feeling stressed, this is not a good time to eat. Get away from your desk or the stressful situation and take at least 10 minutes – or as long as you can – to calm down before eating. And never eat at your desk!
For more information, check out Mindful Eating by Rachel Bartholomew and Mandy Pearson (CICO Books, 2014) or The Yoga of Eating by Charles Eisentstein.
Henrietta Norton is an established nutritional therapist, women’s health expert and founder of award-winning supplement brand Wild Nutrition
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