At Paycare, we’re all about continually learning new skills and developing our understanding of our own mental, physical and financial health, which is why we recently welcomed the brilliant Mel Wakeman to our offices to talk to us about the process of mindful eating.
This week, she shares her insight as our guest blogger, plus shares top tips for how we can listen to our bodies’ needs more effectively and better control our eating habits – including why, when and how we eat.
“You know the moment when you’ve just finished that report. The relief and satisfaction hits and you decide to treat yourself to a big mug of tea with a slice of lemon drizzle and have that much needed break.
You set your cake down, get comfy, then tuck in. That first bite of the light fluffy lemon sponge, combined with the zesty crunchy topping makes your mouth water, your taste buds are having a party and it melts away effortlessly.
The second bite is equally scrumptious but then your mobile buzzes. Something catches your eye and you check it. A breaking news report, celebrity scandal or a crazy stunt video comes up and before you know it you click on it and carry on eating.
Suddenly you look down and the cake is GONE! Who stole my cake?! There are only crumbs left? Is this some sort of joke? You can still taste the lemon, your fingers are sticky but the sense of disappointment and dissatisfaction is HUGE.
The reality sets in…..how did I eat that without realising? Should I go get another slice? And so, the conflict begins between the feeling of missing out and the signals from your body saying ‘hey, thanks for that’.
Mindless eating is a pretty sure-fire way of eating more than you intended. So many of us see food purely as fuel. It provides energy and calories to run our engine and that’s all we need right? WRONG! The sensory fulfilment food provides is vital in our ability to feel full, satisfied and content.
The process of not just eating but tasting, being visually stimulated by food, it’s smells, sounds and textures all add to the sensory information feeding into our brain when we eat, chew and digest food. It’s this information that tells us when we’ve had enough.
Distracted (mindless) eating (when we eat and drive, read papers or magazines, check our phone or email) is recognised as one of the key factors that stops us from recognising emerging hunger and fullness, leading to over eating and weight gain.
Distracted eating means you are more likely to go from one end of the hunger spectrum straight to the other. Rather than being body aware, to pick up on the subtler nuances of hunger (such as fading focus and lack of concentration, feeling a little tired or impatient), you go straight to ‘I’m starving, I could eat the back leg off a donkey’.
This intense, primal level of hunger means you don’t really care what you eat, you just need food. Anything. And if it’s fattening and calorific but tastes amazing, all the better.
So you eat quickly. The purpose is just to get food in you, to refill the energy bank and stop the hunger. Your body doesn’t have time to register you are getting full and that you could probably stop. It’s not pleasant. It may be uncomfortable, and you may even feel a bit sick. Mindful eating is about slowing down, pausing and being aware how fast you eat but it’s also so much more than this.
It’s being aware of WHY you eat. Is it for physical hunger or is it because you’re tired, stressed, happy or sad?
It’s being aware of WHEN you want to eat. Are you able to listen to your body? Do you honour your hunger and eat when you need to rather than when it’s most convenient? Do you eat because you enjoy it? Do you eat out of boredom or because it’s simply there?
Do you know WHAT you want to eat? Maybe you get a feeling you want something sweet, salty, hot or crispy? Maybe you have no idea what you feel like, so you go through the cupboards, guessing, trying to decide?
Do you know HOW to stop? To know when you’re starting to get full and when you feel satisfied? It’s being able to leave your plate despite not clearing it.
It’s appreciating WHERE; the environment you need to eat in, that helps you adopt a more mindful approach. So you can taste, sense and connect with your food.
When life is running at a million miles an hour mindful eating may seem impossible BUT, if you can make time for yourself, give yourself permission to stop what you’re doing and eat in peace, the rewards are amazing.
• You get to taste your food
• Remember what you’ve eaten
• Feel it nourish you
• Feel calmer
• Feel more satisfied
• Feel more comfortable about your food choices
• Understand what your body is telling you
• Understand your appetite and the reasons why you eat or don’t eat
• Feel more in control of your eating
• Feel more content
• Boost your general wellbeing
The list goes on. So how do you begin eating more mindfully?
Tips to eating with more awareness
1. Focus on the moment | Don’t eat with your phone switched on, doing emails, or driving – choose a relaxed setting
2. At work use a plate, not a Tupperware pot | So that you can see what you are eating and your meal is nicely presented (eating out of a tub encourages speedy eating!)
3. Avoid the beige diet | This is B O R I N G! Go for a wide palette of colours that interest you
4. Go for flavour | When we don’t eat all of the variety of flavours at a meal – salty, sweet, sour and bitter – sometimes we may come away from the meal feeling like we are “missing something,” and ultimately, feeling dissatisfied
5. Take smaller mouthfuls | This will help you become more aware of the flavours in each mouthful. Try closing your eyes to make your other senses work harder.
6. Chew more slowly and chew thoroughly | The process of digestion begins in the mouth where enzymes are secreted in saliva to break down food. If we do not properly chew and make our food morsels smaller, we may be subject to indigestion and bloating.
7. Put your fork down between mouthfuls | Your food is safe! You could even try eating with your non-dominant hand (sit on your dominant hand) to make you slow down.
These can all help you reconnect with food, helping you stay in control of your appetite, build a level of appreciation and enjoyment of food. That is something I think so many are missing out on.
Mel Wakeman is a mum, a wife and a Registered Nutritionist who has always had a passion for nutrition and health – spending the last 20 years studying and teaching it to people across Birmingham and further afield. For more information, please visit https://www.wakemannutrition.com/.
Thanks Mel for sharing on your wisdom to the Paycare team!