Mindful Eating

As we run around after the kids, shopping, work, and juggle life, it’s rare that I come across someone who is taking the time to eat mindfully, by this I mean taking the time over eating their food, chewing it until blended in the mouth and tasting every mouthful.

My mother had us trained well as teenagers, she worked at the table outside the kitchen, dinner would be served and we would be encouraged to eat it as quickly as we could so she could get back to using the table for work. So I learnt to gallop down my food, it probably only touched my teeth twice before I pretty much swallowed it whole, she would have been proud of me, into later life I was the fastest eater in town. I was always finished before everyone else, I would be looking for more to fill my plate, and wondering how to continue filling up what felt like an empty hole in my stomach. I never felt full, and would eat a lot of carbohydrate rich foods, and massive meals considering my stature, obviously I put on weight it was kind of inevitable with that way of eating.

Then I met my clients and I realised that they would give me a run for my money in our eating speeds, mind you by this time I had slowed down my eating considerably, and the thing that we mostly had in common wasn’t a mother who trained them to eat quickly but a need to eat on the go.

For years whilst I worked I ate in my car, on the way to work, on the way back, on the way to meetings, whilst walking or running to meetings, or even during lunchtime meetings you would find me eating. I was stressed so I ate a lot, in fact a member of staff came down the office to tell me that every time he looked up I was eating. At that point I realised that I didn’t even realise I was eating at my desk I was so preoccupied with the work. I just picked all day at my food, I couldn’t tell you what I was eating, or what I had ate, I just ate it to keep myself going. I know that I’m not alone in this way of eating any more, few people are taking the time to do something that should be relatively pleasurable, but also incredibly important to health, instead it’s all just a rush from breakfast cereal because it’s fast, or toast because it’s easy, to lunch bought on the run, and dinner out of a jar and packet. It’s all done with the idea of ease and speed and nutritional content isn’t high up on the reasons to be making it.

We’ve replaced taking the time to eat properly and mindfully with other distractions, and a need to get back to doing what we were doing just before having to eat something to ‘refuel’. In particular I hear busy people telling me that they stop to refuel their bodies. But food isn’t just about refuelling, food is used on many levels in the body and mind, and seeing it in that way tells me they see themselves as a machine that just needs to be fed to keep going. But it’s that attitude in general which is leaving many people ill, because if we don’t stop and take time over our food we will accept the poor quality of food that is often only available. If we stop and taste our food we wouldn’t be eating half of the junk that is on offer, because our bodies and taste buds would be telling us that we deserve to eat better.

Instead though we eat on the run, grab a sandwich, and remain out of control with our food choices, going long hours between eating, then eating the cupboards out and feeling fed up because our blood sugar has dropped too far. I know that it’s not the food that’s often the issue, it’s time, and lifestyle that are leaving most people time poor and that places pressure on trying to take time out to eat properly. But it can be done, the other day I was told of how one of my friends had gone into work to find that everyone in the office was sat having boiled eggs and toast for breakfast and he sat down with them. When we feed ourselves properly, and eat our food mindfully we are less likely to eat too much, our bodies will tell us they are satiated, our bodies will make better choices and will feel much better for it. Eating mindfully has been forgotten for all of the other things in our life that seem more important, but if we feed ourselves properly on a daily basis, and take time to eat our food, we are preventing a long term chronic disease state happening. At that point then you will have to stop to eat, and more importantly get well, from my years as a practitioner I know that if you don’t listen to your body, and take time to listen it will stop you itself.

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