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Sunday, 13 November 2011

Mindful eating leads to better nutrition

What to eat?  This is a minefield of monumental proportions.  We are constantly being bombarded by this being good, that being bad; only to find that in a couple of weeks it is the other way around.  I came across this and it made me think that it is not only what we eat, but the way that we eat it which could give us a really nutritious diet.  I did a mindfulness course at the beginning of this year and on the retreat day we practiced mindful eating, though I haven't done much since because like so many others I don't give my food the attention that it deserves.

This is an interesting article from the Kallo Food Academy which is on Facebook. I know that some of you are not on fb and don't wish to be, so I thought I would sumarise it. If you are on fb you can go to the page via this link:  http://www.facebook.com/KalloFoodAcademy?sk=app_219625254722417  The article on fb is by Gaynor Bussell, BSc (Hons), RD, RPHNutr

Mindful eating has come to be seen as a long-term solution to nutritional problems, both obesity and eating disorders.  Mindfulness is not just an ‘alternative’ practice but a very practical way of being able to allow yourself to be aware of the present moment in which we are and in proper scientific journals it is being described as ‘an astute, nonjudgmental awareness of the present moment’. Mindful eating can therefore be ‘a non-judgmental awareness of physical and emotional sensations while eating or in a food –related environment’.

It partly works by reconnecting us to the food that we eat and the way that we eat it. So many people now think that food is something that comes in a packet from the supermarket shelf, coolers or freezers. How much do we allow ourselves to experience the flavour of what we are eating, and the experience of eating it by concentrating on other things? This can leave us still feeling hungry and ready to eat more by denying our mind and body the realisation that we have just eaten. I tend to be as bad at this as the next person. I eat my lunch at my desk while working during the week. When I get home I take something up to my study to eat while I check what has been going on with the forums and e-mails, so I eat at the desk again. Breakfast I just drink my smoothie as quickly as possible as I am always late these days. If your mind doesn't recognise that you have eaten then of course you will want more.

Mindful eating is about focusing not only on what you are eating and allowing your mind to know that it has just eaten. It is about the whole process of making and consuming our food. Being mindful about food mean that we would tend to eat less and be less responsive to the triggers that often lead us to eat - advertising, anxiety, depression, boredom or just because it is available. Mindful eaters tend to eat less than mindless eaters.

By being more aware of the nutritional value of what we eat will make us appreciate how it is powering our body to resist disease in any form, and how it is helping to regenerate the body. This awareness of what nutrition can do for us will also encourage us to have a healthy and balanced diet, though it does not mean that we will turn into perfect eaters over night, though hopefull not to develop 'orthorexia nervosa' which is an obsession with eating only uber-healthy food. A balance has to be struck otherwise we could end up cutting out nutrients that we also need in moderation. Humans get salt from their food, but not too much, and there are other nutrients which we need, such as a healty balance of fats that help the body to work properly.

Mindfulness is a way of being more aware, empathetic, accepting and balanced which is part of becoming an optimal person in mind, body and soul

ALSO 10 steps to Mindful Eating also on the Kallo Food Academy
1. Allow yourself at least 20 minutes to sit and focus on your food without any distractions, so no TV, computer, smartphone or even a newspaper

2. Take pleasure in planning your meals and snacks; think in advance and make sure you have the ingredients on hand to make what you have planned. This can help you resist eating whatever is around

3. Enjoy preparing your food, even if it is simply putting a topping on some rice cakes; try and make it as a creative art and pleasing to look at, for example, add some garnish for colour.

4. If you leave preparing your meal until you are absolutely ravenous you may be tempted to gorge everything in sight! Try to arrive at your meal feeling a little hungry but not famished.

5. When you can, lay a place for yourself to eat, adding a napkin, place mat and even flowers if you like. Use a nice plate, but if you are trying to cut down on your intake, use a smaller plate.

6. Really notice each mouthful as you eat; relax, chew thoroughly and be aware of the flavour and texture of your food.

7. If your mind wanders to other subjects, bring it back to your food, perhaps thinking about how it arrived at your plate, from farm, maybe food manufacturer or shop, and then your preparation of it.

8. Connect with the food you are eating and think about whether it is nourishing your body and mind.

9. Notice how full you are feeling and stop when you feel pleasantly satisfied rather than stuffed!

10. When you have eaten, make a mental note that the meal is over and clear it away. Try not to think of this as a chore but just the completion of the meal, and while you're doing it think about how nice it was, how you feel and how much you will enjoy the process again when the next meal or snack comes along.

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