This weekend I had the pleasure of featuring in The New Zealand Herald's Canvas magazine alongside four inspiring healthy foodie ladies from the WHOLE cookbook (click here for more on WHOLE), as well as a sneaky photo of myself on the front page of the paper (utter craziness). Lots of gratitude over the feature - it's neat to talk on something I'm so passionate about. Click here for the link to the article.
In today's face-paced, food-abundant, tech-savvy environment, eating with intent is a practice many of us are out of touch with. We're inhaling our foods (chew, swallow, chew, swallow), while scrolling through our Facebook feed, typing away at the desk or chilling with Netflix. Before we know it we've mindlessly demolished half a packet of biscuits, and may not be feeling terribly happy with ourselves, and for many this often leads to feelings of guilt and shame, which can both contribute to a love-hate relationship with food.
Mindful eating is a wonderful practice to counter mindless eating, and is centered around eating with intention and truly taking the time to sit and enjoy your meal. It not only assists with building a healthier relationship with food, but also helps with keeping our appetite regular and better digestion by teaching us to focus on physical cues to dictate dietary choices (such as the body's hunger signals or a comfortable feeling of fullness after a meal) rather then emotional ones. It also involves an element of gratitude around meal times - being thankful for the plate of goodness in front of you and the power it has to give our bodies the fuel and nutrients needed to function at our very best. Beyond taste, how cool is food really? Here are some tips for being a mindful eater:
1. Eat without distraction
This ones a biggie. When it's meal time, take a break from whatever you're doing and focus on the plate in front of you. Turn off your screen, put away your phone, and really be present when you eat. Use your senses - look at what you're eating, smell it, taste it and really chew it. You'll notice a greater appreciation or your food when you take the time to savour it. Notice the tartness of an apple or the sweetness of strawberries - simply paying attentions to the flavours of food is a great place to start with mindful eating. Eating slowly and mindfully carries a wealth of heath benefits too - by slowing down and really taking the time to chew your food (20 bites/mouthful at least), our brains recognise feelings of fullness more quickly, making us less inclined to overeat. Chewing our food properly also aids proper digestion - remember there are no teeth beyond our stomach! If you suffer from boating you may as well find that properly chewing your food will alleviate your symptoms.
2. Employ greater self-awareness
Learning to recognise non-hunger trigger for eating, such as stress or boredom, is an important step in combating mindless eating. Many who struggle with over-eating may find they're reacting mindlessly with food to thoughts, triggers, or feelings, without even realising it. By recognising what may contribute to this, we're then able to approach the situation with more perspective, observe our thoughts, and then respond more accordingly. Ask yourself "am I really hungry? Or am I just stressed?". If stress is an issue, it's important to find ways of relaxing that don't involve food - you could try incoproating more restorative exercises into your week, practise belly-breathing, having a friend or family member to vent to or taking a bath.
3. Be gentle on yourself
Okay, so you mindlessly over-ate and now you feel guilty - don't hold on to it, just let it go! Our health is a collective sum of what we do, and our bodies can handle a little indulgence every now and then - it's when these habits become a regular occurrence that issues may arise. Our thoughts are so powerful and can deeply affect us, both psychologically and physiologically, so if you slip up don't beat yourself up or throw your eating habits out the window for the rest of the day - simply hop back on the bandwagon at your next meal. Remember - mindful eating isn't about discipline, willpower or extreme concentrations - it's just about enjoying, appreciating and focusing on the food in front of you.