Ten Top Questions from the Victorian Book Tour: Part 2
Welcome to part 2 of your top ten nutrition and health questions. This week I am answering your questions on how to support mindful eating. Why is mindful eating so important?
“Mindfulness allows you to tune into what is best for you, at any given moment. As you learn more about how your body and mind respond to eating, you will appreciate how good it feels to be well fed and well nourished.”
5 Ways to Support Mindful Eating
#6 I know I overeat, but how do I reconnect with my ‘true appetite’?
In Australia and many parts of the Western world, it is difficult to image true hunger. By true hunger, I mean being deprived of food to the extent that you experience starvation. We have food at our fingertips—at home and at work. There are many food outlets serving fresh and prepared foods and meals.
If you have never experienced a hunger pang, then I suggest going without food until you experience physiological hunger. I do not recommend this activity if you have medications that need to be taken with food, or have health conditions that require regular meals. Discuss your requirements with your doctor, as you may reduce your food intake to just cover your needs.
I recommend tuning into your appetite and you may like to refer to the appetite scale to support mindful eating.
#7 I live alone and often read or watch TV while I am eating—how can I become more mindful of what I eat?
Reading or watching TV while you are eating are distractions. If we are distracted by another activity while we are eating, we cannot eat mindfully. If you live alone, then you can make meal times a celebration of good food and a time to nourish you—the choice of the menu, preparation of the meal and eating of the food are all important steps. It seems a shame to take care to prepare a delicious meal and then not taste it. Support mindful eating by removing distractions.
#8 Our family evening meals are eaten in front of the television—what can you suggest that I do to change this?
We form habits concerning our meals and how we eat them. Watching TV whilst eating is an example of an eating habit. I suggest you consider the pros and cons of the habit, for example:
- Keep the status quo—no one has to change.
- Family enjoys TV together.
- Favourite programs are on during the mealtime.
- I do not taste or enjoy my meal.
- I tend to overeat, as I do not tune into my appetite.
- We have pre-plated meals for convenience, rather than being able to select what we feel like eating.
- I often experience indigestion because I am watching stressful events on TV.
If you live in a household with your spouse and younger children and your spouse is willing to try eating without TV, then it might be a simple change to introduce. If there is a resistance to change from your spouse and older children, explain to your family members why you wish to support mindful eating. Discuss the pros and cons of watching TV, perhaps negotiate a few nights a week of meals without TV and consider recording programs that can be viewed after the meal.
#9 I have two diet-related health conditions and am receiving conflicting advice on how to best manage them—how can I eat mindfully in this situation?
Ideally tune into how your body and mind respond to your food choices. I also recommend identifying the conflicting dietary advice and speak to your healthcare practitioners—doctor, dietitian or naturopath for example—to resolve the conflict. You need to be clear about the recommendations that will most likely support you. However, you still have to experience eating and assess whether your way of eating is supporting you. I recommend keeping a food diary. By monitoring your eating patterns, you may be able to identify what foods, or quantities of food, trigger certain responses in your body e.g. bloating, headaches. You can complete a food diary with the assistance of an accredited practising dietitian. Food diaries support mindful eating.
#10 With nutrition and health advice forever changing, how do I know what to eat?
Nutrition advice and our food supply will continue to change. Who would ever have thought that supermarkets would stock over 15,000 food products? A mindful approach to eating encourages us to tune into what works for us. Learning about our habits, our reasons or drivers for eating and our health needs means we are well informed to select a range of foods that suit us. There is little ‘trial and error’ in this approach, but as I have mentioned, you are best placed to know what works and what needs fine-tuning. Our health and lifestyle needs will change too, so mindful eating allows you to adapt to your changing needs. New information and food products may not be relevant to you, but you can always discuss these with your healthcare practitioners.
Support mindful eating by tuning into your appetite, prioritising mindful eating, removing distractions during meal times, understanding the best food choices for your health requirements and becoming confident in making mindful choices. Like all new choices, mindful eating requires patience and practice.