It’s one o’ clock as Seema sits down to eat lunch. She has to pick up her son from the bus stop down the road at one thirty. Seema fills her katoris with dal(lentil), Dahi(yoghurt) and sabji(vegetables) as her cook brings her two rotis(bread). Seema opens her novel to read while eating and checks her phone intermittently. Ten minutes flat and her plate is empty. She walks into the kitchen to find something sweet and settles with a couple of hard sweets which were given to her son as a back present. One thirty. She leaves to go down still feeling a bit unsatisfied.
Seema comes back with her son and after giving him lunch and then settling him down to his homework she decides to take her afternoon nap. Four o clock and Seema is up again feeling famished. She heads for the pantry looking for something “interesting to eat.” The packet of potato chips and chaklis seem to call her. A bowlful of chips and about five chaklis later Seema feels uncomfortable and guilty. Tomorrow just fruit, she says to herself.
When Seema first came to me, she had no idea why she felt so compelled to snack on “something interesting” every afternoon. “I eat a good lunch so I should really only just need a fruit if that,” she said. “But somehow when I look at the fruit at that time it just doesn’t cut it for me. What’s going on?”
“Well a lot of things”, I told her. “First of all, are you hungry for lunch?” Immediately she said no; “But I have to eat because I have to go down to get my son and my maid leaves around that time. So I eat so she can make my rotis and then I am free.”
“So, then you are eating when your body isn’t telling you to and therefore are not enjoying the food. Not to mention you are disconnecting from the experience of eating by reading. You are also eating so fast that you are not registering any tastes or flavours to feel satisfied. Why not try waiting till you are hungry? Come back and eat with your son when your body might be ready to receive a meal? Tell the maid to make the rotis and keep them. You can always warm them later. If you eat when hungry, your food will taste much better and you will feel more satisfied and less likely to need “something interesting” later.”
“It had not occurred to me to delay lunch because I always feared to be so hungry later. But actually, I am back by one forty-five so it isn’t a whole lot of time later.”
A week into trying this new pattern Seema discovered that not only was she hungry at two but when she did eat, the food tasted much better and her four o clock snack attack diminished significantly.
So often we all eat completely disconnected from our body’s hunger signals and so distractedly that we don’t even register what we are eating or how it tastes. Then later our minds look for something to satisfy our taste buds simply because we did not invite our mind into our plates the first time around.
The key then is to PAUSE, CONNECT and ENJOY. If there are three basic tenets of Mindful eating it is these.
Ask yourself if you are actually hungry— in your stomach. We often eat because it’s time to eat, because the food’s in front of us because others are eating, because it’s convenient or because we think we “should” eat. The idea is to listen to your own body rhythms. So before eating ask yourself: Am I hungry? How do I know?
True hunger occurs in the stomach—a sensation of emptiness or a growling. It is physically based. There’s a beautiful saying by Michael Pollan—“if you are not hungry enough to eat an apple you are not hungry.”
Of course, I am not suggesting we only eat apples when hungry, but the idea is to determine whether your hunger is in your body or mind. Remember that food tastes best when you are actually hungry!
What you eat is not as important as why, where and how you eat. It’s the why and how that determines the what. Besides just switching off all distractions, it’s important to eat in the same place every day. A lot of us today eat in the bedroom, study, TV room, couch etc. However, when we eat in a variety of places we begin to associate food with every activity and then whenever we walk into that room we unconsciously want to eat even when we don’t need it.
So, eat only at the dining table. Not just meals, but even snacks and desserts. This helps control mindless munching and portions too –since it breaks the association of food with every area of your home.
Mindful eating isn’t about following a restricted diet or only eating healthy foods. It’s about eating for nourishment and enjoyment. Completely swearing off chocolates or your favourite foods only increases their power over you and your desire for them. The minute the human mind is told it can’t have something that’s all it wants. So allow yourself to choose from all foods while also remembering that you want to end eating feeling better after—not guilty or stuffed nor deprived.
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I tell clients to slowly enjoy two pieces of chocolate every day. This not only gives us satisfaction but also signals the end of eating for the day. Moreover, because we know we can have it again tomorrow we don’t feel the need to stuff it down now because “from tomorrow I will be good.”
Mindful eating isn’t about being good or bad. It’s about being present to and with ourselves, our food, our bodies and our minds. Mindful eating doesn’t mean eating less but tasting more. When we are fully present with what we eat, we end our meals feeling pleasantly full rather than fundamentally empty.
Hope you found this article soul searchingly beneficial. This article was contributed by Tara Mahadevan. Her bio attatched below will convince you of her capabilities. You can write to us if you have any questions. Keep reading www.maaofallblogs.com for more such useful information.
Tara Mahadevan from bodywisdom.in is a Counselling Psychologist and a Weight Management Specialist. She works with clients to help them understand their eating style, recognize physical versus non-physical hunger, how to deal with cravings and temptations, how to increase willpower and how to practice mindful eating. She provides clients with all the psychological tools and strategies necessary for permanent weight loss. In addition to weight management counselling, Tara provides general counselling (for issues such as depression, anxiety and stress management) to people who may not have weight or food concerns but need clarity in other areas of their lives. Tara has a Master’s degree in Psychology from SNDT University, Mumbai, and a Bachelor’s in Psychology from Vassar College, USA. She is also an internationally certified Wellness Coach and Weight Counsellor from Wellcoaches Corporation, USA; a certified Clinical Pediatric Obesity Counsellor from the University of San Francisco, USA; a certified Nutrition and Eating Behaviours Facilitator from the Am I Hungry® Mindful Eating program, USA, a certified Fitness Instructor from Reebok and ACSM (USA) and a certified Nutrition Specialist from BFY, Mumbai.