Everyday we’re on the search for a new super food, a diet food, a sugar free or low fat food, a diabetic food and the list goes on. We’re so obsessed with “everlasting diets” that claim to make us lose ten kilos in one month… but wait, has this ever actually worked- and lasted? Don’t we just yo-yo back to our original weight (or worse, gain more than we had lost)?
We have become walking talking targets for fast food, convenient food, and processed food companies. Their marketing is omnipresent. From social media, to billboards, to school buses, to gyms and television… we are constantly (often subconsciously) influenced by commercials and advertisements. Ever given into this savvy marketing? Sure, we all have, it’s a natural human response to be susceptible to cues from our environment. You are not alone and there is nothing wrong with you if the following scenario sounds familiar to you:
‘ As I’ve just finished eating a wholesome lunch, I browse my Instagram page…. “Wow, what a yummy picture of this brownie”… I might start salivating, and thinking “I need some sweet”, and I might slowly head to the fridge and gobble down a chocolate. But wait, why did I “cheat”, why was I “bad”, why did I eat a “junk food”? My scale is going to go off the roof tomorrow.’
Let’s take a step back to analyze our relationship with food and ourselves. Why is it so easy to label food and ourselves as “good or bad”? At the end of the day, it’s just food… yet it can consume our thoughts 24/7. Surely this can’t be a healthy relationship. Let’s pause this thinking and take a step back. Can we actually change our relationship with food? Ever heard of Mindful Eating? Michelle May’s Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Program is an excellent depiction, portrayal and discovery into mindful eating.
Eating with “intention and attention”:
As May so effectively describes, mindful eating means to eat with intention and attention. You can chose to eat with the intention to care for yourself and give you entire attention to your food such that you’re using all five senses to fully enjoy and nourish your body. Sounds complicated or cliched? Well, thankfully over time, this natural process gets easier, unlike the diets that seem so strenuous to abide by over the months and years. You may realize that when you’re eating with intention and attention, you may not require a full pizza to show your love for pizza, but simply a few slices might feel great.
Battles of the foods:
Instead of being at war with the sweet you’ve just eaten, mindful eating allows you to nourish, respect and honor every single food that you consume. There’s no “wrong” or “right” food. All foods are in your “eat list”, and only the self-limiting and negative thoughts are in your “not to eat list”. Yup, you’ve read it right! No foods are off limits! Mindful eating allows you to take care of your body in the most healthy and optimal way while still enjoying all foods with “balance, variety and moderation” as May describes, without feeding yourself feelings of deprivation or guilt.
You got it baby!
Ever thought of why your issues with body image, dieting and eating start at a later age? Why aren’t we born with these? It’s because as babies, we had it just right! We were born as “instinctive eaters”. Ever tried to give a baby milk when they’re happy, sleepy, tired, or want to coo and play? Will they drink it? Probably not! Babies are so cued into their body signals that they’ll respond to their body’s true needs. If they’re sleepy they’ll sleep, and not confuse sleepiness for hunger. But as we grew older we just unlearn’t our “baby cues” and responded to the environment differently.
Tune into your body and its signals:
When was the last time you asked yourself “Am I Hungry?” before eating? How many times have you been to the cinema after a full meal and finished the popcorn before the move even started? Were you actually physically hungry during this time, or was it merely an association that you made with the movie theater and the need for popcorn? Probably the latter! Mindful eating allows you to cue into and pick up on the habits, signals, triggers and associations your body has made with eating.
Eating with full consciousness:
Mindful eating doesn’t mean to say “don’t eat the popcorn when you’re not hungry”. That would be another diet mantra. It is simply a process that allows you to become aware of your physical and non-physical body cues for eating. You are in charge of your body, and can fully and consciously make a decision to eat… even when you know your body may not actually be physically hungry. You always get to decide. It’s a process that allows you to peel away at your food behaviors, to realize your eating triggers. For example, you may to turn food when you’re tired, bored, sleepy, stressed, happy or experiencing about any other positive or negative emotion in the dictionary. Mindful eating is a process that allows you to deal with these triggers and address your body’s and mind’s true needs.
That “whoopsie” moment:
Just because you’re mindful doesn’t mean that you won’t have so called “slip ups” – a day you accidently finished the whole packet of chips without even thinking about it. But hey, we’re all human and aiming for perfection is not sustainable or realistic. We can introspect, recognize we are free to make our choices, pick ourselves back up, and chose to learn from the experience.
Mindfulness once truly practiced is not just limited to food, meals and eating. Mindfulness extends to all realms of life, whether it be with exercise, our relationships or our responsiveness to situations. Why not try it out?
Dr Aarti Javeri
Dr Roshani Sanghani