The 28th January is indeed Mindful eating day.
But what exactly does “eating mindfully” even mean?
Permit me to tell you.
I was always a big believer that I overate because I just loved food so much. How dare anyone ask me to eat less…or god forbid…give something up. This was and is one of the challenges I face on my road to happiness and health.
Hubnut could not understand this at all. For him food is fuel, plain and simple.
I am gonna tell it to you straight….the man eats like he spent his formative years in prison. It’s fast….aggressive stabbing fork action…..minimal chewing……no speaking…….and no visible use of a knife. He appears to think that if he doesn’t eat it quickly enough someone will steal it off his plate, right out from under his nose. I can only assume he fears said thief will be me….as it is just the two of us at the table.
(Mostly his fears are unfounded but there are a few desserts where in fairness his fear may indeed be warranted…..watch out Hubnut!)
The way my beloved eats, bless him, is the polar opposite of a Mindful Eater.
Mindful has become a popular word of late in health and wellness literature. The reason this applies to emotional eaters is thus…
“We eat food not because we enjoy food to much but because we don’t enjoy food enough.”
This is such a game changing quote by Charles Eisenstein.
So many clients say that they over eat because food is fun. They just love it so much.
Of course in many ways food is fun and enjoyable.
- We enjoy the taste
- We enjoy the social environment we are eating in.
- We enjoy the “treat” factor if we have had a bad day or we feel we deserve a reward.
- We enjoy the “celebration “factor if we have had a success.
You will be thrilled I hope to hear that we can still do all of these things but be eating more mindfully.
So what is mindful eating?
One of the founding queens of the mindful eating movement defines it as :
“the process of paying attention (on purpose), to your actual eating experience, without judgment.” ~ Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD
As with most things concerning emotional eating …this mindful eating is easier said than done. While it sounds straight forward, the process can be quite complex especially for those who multi task.
I am sure there are no multitaskers amongst us here!! ……Nooooo……Of course not.
So let’s get to it.
Mindful eating can be a fabulous tool for both emotional eaters and food for fuel eaters.
We are all in danger of living our lives at such a fast, multitasking pace that we are barely even aware that we are even eating. We eat on the run, standing over the sink, whilst on Facebook, whilst driving, whilst texting and whilst watching TV, to name just a few distractions.
We can’t fully concentrate on two activities at the same time…we are always less aware of one of them. In the battle of awareness between activities……. eating almost always loses.
It’s is like when we are driving a car and you slip into auto pilot. You get to destination and you have no real recollection of whether or not you stopped at all the red lights and give way signs. Clearly you did…but you were not really aware of it.
When you haven’t really concentrated on eating and suddenly its over already we can feel robbed of the experience. We feel like we are still hungry because we missed the fun of the eating bit.
So how do we do it?
- Wait a few minutes and access physical hunger.
This links us neatly back to the emotional verses physical hunger and the Hunger scale which we talked about in an earlier blogs.
First we have to stop and focus on a couple of questions.
Am I physically or emotionally hungry?
How hungry am I on the Hunger scale?
So we now know if we are even hungry at all and if we are hungry what food and portion will match out hunger level.
- OK…. we have decided to eat…so set up a nice eating space
Although this may appear to be a daft time wasting luxury it is an amazing way to help make our eating experience more enjoyable in a way that is not about the food. This can be particularly challenging for people who regularly eat alone. It might seem silly to set up a nice candle, table mat and wine glass (no wine actually required, I like sparkling water in a wine glass cos it taste better). But give it a go. Eating is a more enjoyable experience when a little presentation is afforded.
- Eat sitting down at a table
This is an absolute must. No stooping over the sink, no eating whilst you are dishing up the other plates, no eating in the car! Let your body sit, relax and be in a comfortable position for you to digest.
- Take a moment to be grateful for the food you have.
Some people are comfortable calling it prayer, others prefer to simply give thanks for the food. The important thing is to take a moment to be grateful for the fact that we are blessed to live in a country of food abundance. That moment of feeling grateful releases relaxing hormones such as serotonin through the body. There is nothing less healthy than stress….especially when it comes to eating and weight loss.
- Do NO other activity
This is SOOOO hard for some people. They almost feel like they can’t relax if they are not checking Facebook or playing Candy Crush, texting or reading a magazine. The harder you find this to do…the more you probably need to do it. If the thought of not checking your facebook for an hour makes you get twitchy…you definitely should consider some technology time out! How about a technology free weekend…….lol….just a suggestion…….but it’s become all the rage!
- Concentrate on each mouthful
Sometimes we don’t know where one mouthful starts and the next one ends as we are shovelling it in faster than we can chew and swallow. When we concentrate on each mouthful it gives us time to receive the messages our body is sending us about taste, pleasure and hunger level.
(The Malteser Test : I ask clients to buy a bag of their favourite snack…for me it was Malteasers. I then ask them to eat them individually as slowly as they can. They are to notice how it feels and tastes, the textures and pleasant emotions. I also ask them to pay attention to when this pleasure in the taste starts to diminish. For me I noticed that by the forth Malteaser, the pleasure had already lessened. I had normally inhaled the whole bag in the time it took me to mindfully eat four. We claim that we love the taste and that’s why we eat…slowing down and eating mindfully helps us to stop when it doesn’t taste as good anymore.
- Put cutlery down in between mouthfuls.
This is just a great way of slowing down out eating. Giving our body and mind time to process what is happening and how it feels and tastes. (My Hubnut clearly struggles with this. In his past life in an imaginary prison….this was not an option.)
- Chew until the food is completely mush
Our digestion does not have teeth!! Yes we have digestive juices but the more munching you do in your mouth; the easier it is on your digestion. Gut health is very much the hot topic at the moment. This all relates to that. Simply put…we need to keep our gut healthy to assist in keeping the rest of us healthy.
When all the elements of mindful eating are brought together, it can transform what, when and how much we eat.
It takes practice lovely ladies, as do most things that are worthwhile.
Once you start giving yourself time to check in with yourself …you will start to notice your physical hunger, where you are at on the hunger scale and if you are enjoying every mouthful of food. You will have time to notice your hunger scale number rising so that you know when to stop.
More than likely you will not succeed at all of this for every meal. But remember…curiosity not judgment. Notice what prevents you from success and see if you can make any adjustments to improve the next time
Make Health and Happiness Habit.