CREATE A BETTER RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD
Article by Joanna Brown
In the age of abundance in food, the most unfortunate fact is that few people take the time to enjoy what they are eating. 24 hour lifestyles are spent on the run at work, in the traffic, and the little resting time spent in front of the Television. Eating has been relegated to a mundane chore that can be done while driving, working, watching TV and so on. Few people do mindful eating.
What is Mindful Eating?
This is eating with intent and attention. There are two aspects to mindful eating, eating to take care of yourself, and eating to feel the goodness of what you are eating. Mindful eating is eating with minimal distractions.
Most people will readily survive on fast food, drive through meals and snacks. Many will not even remember what they ate for breakfast. The tradition of eating at the dinner table is all but gone in many families. Breakfast is eaten as people are standing ready to rush out for the day, while supper will be taken in front of the TV with family members barely noticing what they are taking. This eating disrupts the rest and digest process of the body.
Rest and Digest
The human body’s self-care is built with two systems, the sympathetic system, and the parasympathetic system. The former is responsible for the flight or fight response that the body needs to face danger. This includes higher blood flow to the muscles and heightened sensory stimulation. The parasympathetic system is designed to make the body relax and repair. It involves optimizing digestion and balancing the body’s chemical reactions.
Constant daily pressures have led to people living in the flight or fight mode perpetually. Deadlines at work, harassment in traffic, financial pressures, family quarrels and so on are some of the modern challenges that induce some form of flight or fight response. The constant stress disrupts the rest and digests process.
Distractions like the TV or work make the eater get through the food as quickly as possible. The eater bites larger chunks of food and chews less thoroughly. Digesting larger chunks is harder which means there are problems with bloating and indigestion.
Benefits of Mindful Eating
• By being mindful of what you eat, you change your way of thinking about food. You will not look at eating as a way of managing your stress or as a distraction.
• There is better emotional management with proper eating habits. Stopping to rest, eat and digest food gives the body time to repair physically and balance out stress and relaxation hormones.
• You develop better eating timing. You will know when to eat and when to stop eating because you have had enough. This avoids common indigestion problems and discomfort.
• You will have better health as you can address your body’s nutritional needs. Food is essential in developing the body’s immunity against common ailments.
Eating willfully while looking forward to enjoying food will make you more deliberate in what you eat. You will take more time to go through menus and recipes to experiment with different foods and just enjoy eating for the fun that it is. Taking time to feel the taste and texture of food can help you reconnect with the whole experience of taking care of yourself nutritionally.
Improving on Mindful Eating
These simple routines are very helpful in developing mindful eating habits.
• Eat in a calm environment (try not to eat in your car, sit at the dinner table vs. the couch)
• Chew your food, when you slow down you can be conscious of your chewing your food to reduce indigestion and gastrointestinal issues
• Take breaks in between bites
• Choose your dinner conversation, try and keep only positive topics around the dinner table. Leave finance or to do conversations separate from when you are eating to help your body enter a rest and digest (parasympathetic stage).
• Enjoy your meal! Get back to having a great relationship with food. Taste; enjoy each bite to enhance pleasure in our day.
Having a discussion with your nutritionist can also go a long way to improving your eating habits. He can advise on your calorific needs and draw up a dieting plan that will ensure you enjoy food while getting maximum benefits from it.