Mindful Eating

This year I took the opportunity at Lent to try something new.

I would normally give up chocolate, wine, or restrict another food in order to spend the 40 day period leading a simpler life without indulging in rich treats on a regular basis.

Chocolate and wine

I noticed that over the years I was doing this more out of habit than anything else so this year I decided to take the advice I have been hearing from dietitians and nutritionists and start to eat in a ‘Mindful’ way.

I first came across Mindful Eating when I attended a talk by Dr Lucy Aphramor, RD. She set up Well Founded, an organisation which teaches the principles of being healthy at any size, HAES®.

Mindful eating focuses on eating a diet that nourishes you, eating when you are hungry and stopping just as you start to feel full. It takes time to adapt but the advantages are that you make better food choices, the way you eat improves and the feeling of well-being increases.

I reflected recently on the assumption that ill health is not exclusive to people who have gained a lot of weight over their lifetime, my own family being a prime example of how to combine chronic illness very effectively with a body mass index (BMI) of under 25kg/m2!

Armed with new found motivation, I started by planning meals so that if I would be away from home I would take healthy and enjoyable snacks to have to hand. I checked restaurant menus online before going out so that I ordered what appealed rather picking anything really filling because I was hungry. I had red wine with meals but there were times when I didn’t drink any alcohol for days. I ate chocolate in the office when it was passed around but I had my block of dark chocolate to nibble at which I found more satisfying and I needed less of it compared to milk chocolate.

Switching the computer off, leaving the phone to one side and chewing my food thoroughly showed me that I pay more attention preparing my meals than actually eating them. Whilst eating in silence is not mandatory, eating without distraction really did make me focus on my meal and let it digest before rushing off to do something else.

Tea and laptop

Learning to eat only when hungry has been my biggest challenge as normally I eat when I know I am not going to be in a meeting, in the car or on a factory floor. I must admit that there were times when I was genuinely full but had a craving for sweet food. Colleagues would comment on the random choice of roasted vegetable salad for lunch followed by chocolate cake for dessert, I am convinced that my hormones were rebelling at the change in lifestyle but now the 40 days are up the sweet cravings seem to have disappeared. The added bonus is that I’m also in a better mood…