By Helen Griffiths, Kinesiologist
There's been a huge amount of press about the WHO's classification of processed meats as established carcinogens and red meats as probable ones. There have been many excellent articles about this subject so I won’t address it here, but it does highlight just how many conflicting and confusing messages we are getting about what we should and shouldn’t be eating. The long-term stress from worrying about what you’re consuming can mean that your body pumps out lots of cortisol, increasing your appetite and making it more likely that you'll both put on and retain weight. However, becoming more mindful and intuitive about your eating can make a huge difference to how you enjoy and digest your food. Here are 5 ways to help you work towards more mindful eating:
1) Pay attention to how food makes you feel. Both whilst you’re eating it and afterwards. Listen to what your body is telling you. Do you feel full of energy, or lethargic and in need of a good nap? Start becoming more consciously aware of what the food is doing to your body on both a physical and emotional level.
2) Take some time out to appreciate your food. Ditch your phone/laptop/TV or any other distractions whilst eating. Instead, focus on your food - how it looks, how it feels in your mouth, how much you are chewing it (it should be at least 30 times a mouthful to aid the digestive process). Rather than preparing your next mouthful whilst still on your current one, put your cutlery down between bites. Also make sure you breathe!
3) Recognise when you’ve had enough to eat. Many people can’t tell they are full until they have overeaten. This often dates back to childhood, when we were told things like ‘finish what’s on your plate’ or ‘eat all your food so you can have dessert’, thereby overriding your body's signals that it is full. As it takes up to 15-20 minutes for the hormones involved with the feeling of satiety to kick in, try standing up during your meal and to see how you feel. If your stomach feels comfortable then you’re probably full. If it’s starting to feel strained, then you’ve definitely eaten too much.
4) Don’t eat your emotions. It’s called comfort eating for a reason. Many times when we are feeling down and are experiencing emotions such as anger, fear, sadness, loneliness, we turn to food to ‘treat’ ourselves, to fill a gap or to distract us from the reality of what’s going on. If this sounds like you, then you’ll know that this strategy rarely works, in fact it probably makes us feel worse since guilt or remorse are also being added to the mix. The next time you feel the need to, or find yourself comfort eating, see if you are able to identify what emotion is driving the urge. Do some exercise (just a few minutes of jumping jacks on the spot, or a few push ups), call a friend or find something else to distract you.
5) Become more aware of the messages you are sending yourself about food. Do you feel ‘bad because you ‘gave in’ and had that slice of chocolate cake? Do you feel ‘good’ because you’ve avoided carbs all day? Many times this programming also begins when we are children. How many times did you hear messages like ‘if you’re naughty you won’t get any chocolate’, or ‘if you’re good you can have some cake’? It’s important to be aware of how our emotions and past experiences affect our food choices, and what messages we are sending ourselves through these choices.
If you find yourself struggling with any or all of these suggestions, then maybe it’s worth considering seeing a kinesiologist to help you deal with your stress around eating and your food choices.