Do you remember what your parents used to say at the dining table? Focus on eating! Don’t run around while eating. Sit straight. Chew your food slowly. Some parents even told their kids to respect the food. Every child from every background, every culture, religion, socio-economic status, or country must have heard this from their parents. I used to hate this advice. It’s so boring to eat and only eat at the table. I often brought a comic book to read while eating. Later I realize that that advice is about practicing mindful eating. Mindful eating is a skill that can be fostered from young age. We have a small baby at home currently. 19 month old. And can vouch from experience how difficult it is to feed her food. We run out of ideas. At least two of us are involved in feeding her. Many a times, I have ended up dancing silly to her nursery rhymes or have made animal sounds. We run out of ideas and at times end up showing her some video on Youtube so that we can shove some food into her mouth. Seeing her eating while watching videos, I felt like I was seeing myself in a mirror. I habitually used to pick up my phone, turn on Youtube, check mails or WhatsApp, or Netflix between my meals. I feel the urge to fill the ‘gap’ of free time while I eat lunch or dinner, not letting myself savour the food on its own. It’s now proven that a child’s development stagnates, becomes unresponsive and has difficulty falling asleep. Parents for their children must practise no screen time during meals. But, that means they need to have their no screentime training themselves! And they shouldn’t use their phone all the time when their kid is around. Well, a kid does not need understand from any gyan these days. They learn from what they see in their parents.
Do you eat distracted? Can you cut back video times when you eat? Or eat mindful without a newspaper or TV or phone. Why are we telling our kids to cut back screentime, but not doing that for ourselves? We might say we’re adults, we have good self control… But, do we?
What is mindful eating?
Mindfulness means focusing on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. The tenets of mindfulness apply to mindful eating as well, but the concept of mindful eating goes beyond the individual. By truly paying attention to the food you eat, you may indulge in blissy types of foods less often. In essence, mindful eating means being fully attentive to your food — as you buy, prepare, serve, and consume it. However, adopting the practice may take more than a few adjustments in the way you approach meals and snacks.
The benefits of mindful eating include better digestion, better hydration, easier weight loss or maintenance, and greater satisfaction with our meals. Meanwhile, eating quickly leads to poor digestion, increased weight gain, and lower satisfaction. The message is clear: Slow down your eating and enjoy improved health and well-being.
Toolkit to eat mindful
1. Begin with your shopping list. Consider the health value of every item you add to your list and stick to it to avoid impulse buying when you’re shopping. Fill most of your cart in the produce section and avoid the center aisles—which are heavy with processed foods — and the chips and candy at the check-out counter.
2. Come to the table with an appetite — but not when ravenously hungry. If you skip meals, you may be so eager to get anything in your stomach that your first priority is filling the void instead of enjoying your food.
3. Start with a small portion. It may be helpful to limit the size of your plate to nine inches or less.
4. Appreciate your food. Pause for a minute or two before you begin eating to contemplate everything and everyone it took to bring the meal to your table. Silently express your gratitude for the opportunity to enjoy delicious food and the companions you’re enjoying it with.
5. Bring all your senses to the meal. When you’re cooking, serving, and eating your food, be attentive to color, texture, aroma, and even the sounds different foods make as you prepare them. As you chew your food, try identifying all the ingredients, especially seasonings.
6. Take small bites. It’s easier to taste food completely when your mouth isn’t full. Put down your utensil between bites. Chew well until you can taste the essence of the food. (You may have to chew each mouthful 20 to 40 times, depending on the food). You may be surprised at all the flavors that are released.
7. Eat slowly. Most of the research on this topic suggests that eating slowly helps you to eat less. In a University of Rhode Island study, researchers served lunch on two different occasions to 30 normal-weight women. The meal in both cases consisted of an enormous plate of pasta with a tomato-vegetable sauce and some Parmesan cheese, along with a glass of water.
At each visit, researchers instructed the women to eat to the point of comfortable fullness. But during one visit, they also told them to to eat as quickly as possible, while on the other visit, participants were asked to eat slowly and to put down their utensils between bites.
When the researchers compared the difference in food consumption between the quickly eaten and slowly eaten lunch, here is what they found:
- When eating quickly the women consumed 646 calories in 9 minutes.
- When eating slowly the women consumed 579 calories in 29 minutes.
That is 67 less calories in 20 more minutes!
If you extrapolate that to three meals per day, you can see how quickly those extra calories could add up.
And here’s another interesting twist: When the women ate their lunch quickly, they reported more hunger an hour later than they did after their slowly eaten lunch.
So not only did eating quickly lead to greater food consumption, it actually satisfied the women less! Conversely, of course, slow eating meant less food but more long-lasting satisfaction.
Awareness is something we can also bring to the supermarket and the kitchen. It helps us learn not to make choices that are automatically influenced by external thoughts, emotions, or impulses but instead, by our own internal knowledge of what our bodies need.
The mind is powerful, and when left untrained, it can be a susceptible to both emotion and habit. We meditate to train the mind — to find the space to make better choices in the interests of our overall health, not our body shape or weight. And the starting point for that shift in perspective is one simple question: What’s your relationship with food?
by Pramila Mundra
Eating healthy most of the time is desired by all but many of us find it challenging and even confusing. Anything which needs to be sustainable has to get easier to do and be simple to follow.
As eating healthy is a daily need and good nutrition is vital for optimal health, there needs to be good meal planning strategies to keep it simple.
- Do not micro count calories : Calorie counting at every meal gets tedious and stressful. You can totally omit calorie counting if you can prioritise protein with healthy fats in every meal along with plenty of vegetables. Avoid sugar and processed or packaged foods which are the major source of unhealthy calories.
- Have a staple list of healthy stocks: Make a list of healthy foods which you can eat often or even daily. Ensure that you have those foods readily available for any meal or snack which you may need. Eg: eggs, paneer, nuts, yogurt, olive oil, ghee, vegetables. This way, the chances of your eating healthy become very higher. You are most likely to eat whatever you store at home.
- Plan your meals ahead: To think what to eat daily, almost 3 times a day becomes a big task to manage along with other daily chores. Hence, it’s smart to plan for a week ahead of time. Accordingly, you can buy the needed ingredients and also batch cook in advance for busy days. If your meals are prepared and available to you at the right time, there are high chances of you staying on track with the plan. If you are planning to cook when you are already hungry, any amount of willpower may fail. Hence meal prepping is the MOST effective strategy for sustainable healthy eating.
- Avoid food restriction: Most people make the mistake of eating less or going into calorie restricted diets. Doing this is setting yourself up for failure in the long run, as you may lose few kilos easily initially but when you stop this diet, all the weight or even more comes back. It is not humanly possible to eat less for long, and will lead to other health issues like nutrient deficiencies, fatigue and hair fall.
- Be creative with food: All aspects in life become interesting with a splash of creativity. Healthy food can be made very appealing and tasty with simple creative touch. When you have recipes of your liking, it becomes easy and fulfilling to stick to those meals regularly. I find that most people are not able to pursue healthy meal plans as they are unaware of interesting options of recipes. Youtube is a great resource and many Nutritionists also provide great recipes and ideas on healthy cooking which can be altered as per your needs. Pinterest is another great resource for recipes.
- Avoid short term goals:Most people enter the weight loss journey with an idea of losing weight as soon as possible. They view weight loss as the ONLY end goal which is the greatest flaw in expectation and end up feeling demotivated. Your health goals should be more holistic with a focus on how you feel overall, your energy levels and mental state after you shift to a new eating and lifestyle plan. Any food plan which makes you feel energetic consistently, manages stress better and is nutritionally complete, will be sustainable and will help you to be in optimal health lifelong. Weight loss will follow when you eat healthy regularly. It is important to have realistic goals with small steps of progress which leads to big results in the long run.
- Learn few healthy recipes: The single most effective life skill for healthy eating is to learn to cook few easy recipes. When you cook, you are sure of the ingredients added and can tweak the recipe by avoiding unhealthy items. You can manage the amount of fats, fibre and flavour as per your goals and choice.
- Avoid comparison: It is a very common practice to compare our progress with others. But when it comes to health, it’s best to avoid comparisons which can lead to unwanted stress and confusion. This is because our health and weight loss depend on numerous factors. They depend on our sleep quality, stress levels, mode of cooking, social lives, emotional health, supplementation and activity levels. Each body is unique with its own specific pace and requirements. We need to respect this fact and be focused on what works for our health goals. This makes it stress free, simple and an enjoyable journey towards better health.
Pramila Mundra is a Nutritionist, with a Masters Degree in Food Science and Nutrition. The key aspect of her approach is to handle health issues mostly by correcting the food choices and lifestyle. Her Meal planners and programs are customised and holistic as per the individual food likings, work routine and limitations. She runs her own Health clinic at Adarsh Palm Retreat, Bangalore. You can find her on Twitter @PramilaMundra
This article in Havard Business Review – Don’t focus on your job at the expense of your career . The gap between what we have to do today and where we see ourselves in the future can be vexing. We’d like to advance toward our goals, but we feel dragged down by responsibilities that seem banal or off-target for our eventual vision. In this piece, the author offers four strategies you can try so that you can simultaneously accomplish what’s necessary in the short-term while playing the long game for the betterment of your career.