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Olwen Anderson's Blog

How mindful eating can improve your health

Saturday, May 19, 2012

How’s your relationship with the food in your life? Distant? Non-committal? Functional? Mindful? Do you know that how you relate to your food could be having a big impact on your health?

Here’s one of the ‘Big Questions’ in nutrition. Why, despite increased availability to a vast range of foods, especially fruits and vegetables, is our population more vulnerable than ever to obesity and chronic illness? One theory is that our relationship with food has changed drastically in the last 60 years.

Prior to WWII, it was customary for one person in each household to manage the family’s meals. Breakfast would normally be cooked, large enough to set you up for the day. The evening meal would be eaten together (TV and the internet weren’t around then). As women began to participate more in the workforce, nutrition management time became scarce. The cooked breakfast was abandoned in favour of fast, convenient breakfast cereal. TV emerged about the same time, so meals transitioned from a social event to something that was ingested in front of the TV. Now, it’s possible to eat every meal with your mind somewhere else (like the internet, or the TV, or driving)

Although we can’t turn the clock back (and in many ways we don’t want to), there are important aspects to the way we used to relate to food then that we can return to, and gain the benefits. If you want to lose weight, simple changes in the way you relate to food could be all you need to make a difference.

The mindful approach to eating means becoming aware of your food, it’s texture and flavour; and becoming conscious of how your body feels about the meal.

-          Most religions and spiritual groups include the practice of acknowledging the meal and giving thanks. You don’t have to subscribe to a particular spirituality to do this; just take the time to acknowledge the food you have, before eating.

-          When you’re eating, just be eating. This means sitting at a table, without distraction from TV, internet or phone. If you are part of a family, eating with other members of your family can help you re-connect after a busy day and strengthen your relationships.

-          Put your cutlery down between each mouthful. This slows you down, giving your stomach time to help you recognise when you’re full. When you’re distracted it’s possible to eat much more than you intended without more enjoyment. (Ever noticed how an entire packet of biscuits can somehow evaporate when you eat while watching TV?)

-          Through eating mindfully, you may find it easier to hear messages from your body about how nourished it feels with your choice of food; what suits, what doesn’t.

As you become more connected with what you’re eating, you may find you’re naturally drawn towards more nourishing foods, and easily reduce your intake of less healthy foods.

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