Transforming mindless binging into mindful eating

The opposite of mindful eating is mindless eating. When we get into the habit of mindless eating we block out the reasons why we eat and what we’re putting into our mouths. This way, we detach ourselves from being accountable for what we put into our bodies. We willingly stuff our faces with junk food and pre-packaged delights, filled with sugar and refined carbs, without caring about what goes into making them.

The message we send to ourselves says, “I don’t care about you.”

Instead, we focus on filling a void and “feeling good” for a few seconds, momentarily appeasing our emotions, until we fall into a slump minutes later, only to allow the cycle to repeat.

When we eat in this mindless way, we are never satisfied because the reason we areeating has nothing to do with hunger, but rather it has deep-seated roots into our emotional well-being.

(We find many reasons to eat – to socialise, to relieve stress, to feel better, to satisfy cravings, to numb out, to punish ourselves, and many more.)

Eating these carb-laden delicacies, cooked in unhealthy oils, becomes an addiction. Thoughts of eating them consume our lives and nervous anticipation at getting the next “fix” becomes our daily life-raft. Nurturing ourselves is replaced with instant gratification. We feel like we cannot live without these foods – they have become our friends and no-one understands us quite like these empty carbs. So, we become more and more unhealthy, replacing our favourite pair of jeans with skirts or loose-fitting tracksuit pants because we can’t fit into anything anymore.

Until, one day, falling apart, our bodies scream for help. We look into the mirror and don’t recognise who we are.

Who have our empty-carb friends made us become?

“The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.” Ann Wigmore

Sometimes, a big event needs to occur before we realise what we are doing to ourselves. This big event needs to shock us into action.

Only when we start to pay attention to what we are doing, can we make a change for the better. Mindful eating comes into play here.

When we are shocked into action, we place a lot of emphasis on what to eat to become healthy because we are fearful of what will happen to us if we don’t. But, if we ever want to break the cycle around bad eating habits, our attitude and preparation around meals and mealtime also need to change.

We need to reconnectwith the experience of eating and the enjoyment of food, which was lost when our focus was on instant gratification.

Part of the success of The Real Meal Revolution red book and its philosophy is the fact that you will begin to repair your relationship with your food. You do this by becoming aware of what you put into your mouth, reading labels, making your food and enjoying what you eat.

“The most powerful tool you have to change your brain and your health is your fork.” Mark Hyman, MD

Instead of being a society obsessed with yo-yo dieting, we need to become a society of happy, healthy eaters.

The goal of mindful eating is to base our meals on physical signals, such as hunger pangs, instead of emotional ones like eating for comfort.

Family traditions have been grossly undervalued in our current money-driven world. But, these traditions are important as they set the tone for our future behaviour. They also strengthen the family bond, help to create a happy home and many fond memories. Sharing meals together can help children form healthy relationships with food and also assist in creating stability in their lives.

During family meal time, children can learn the importance of chewing their food and how to savour the flavours of each morsel on their plates. The fundamentals of why they are eating, and what the food does for their bodies, can also be instilled here. Without a structured meal time they might land up shovelling the food into their mouths as quickly as possible, while keeping one eye on the TV and one hand on an iPad, and thinking about what they could be doing instead.

Without traditions, and encouragement from parents, children’s fascination with food and where it comes from slips away. The beginning of a poor relationship with food that will lead into adulthood stems from here.

But, we can claim back our relationship with food, for ourselves and our children. Becoming a mindful eater is the first step in the process. Here are some tips below:

Eat slowly.

Take the time to chew and enjoy your food. You will noticemore quickly when you are full. Chewing is the first step in the digestive process and the longer you chew, the better it is for your health.

Savour your food.

Pay attention to the flavours and textures of you food. Make eating time a time for you. Sometimes you have to eat on the go – but no matter where you’re eating;” in your car, at your desk, a restaurant, or at home, take time out to appreciate what you are eating, the benefits it has for your body and health, and be grateful for the food.

Observe as you eat.

Notice what the food you are eating is doing to your body. How do you feel afterwards? Are you feeling lethargic or energised? Do you have brain fog, does your stomach hurt? Are you over-full? All of these observations will help you understand what foods agree with you and which ones don’t. So that you can make better choices the next time.

Know your food.

Read labels and ask questions about where your food comes from, who grew it, and how it was made. Become more conscious of the type of food you want to put into your body.

Make your own food.

When you make your food, you make the choices about what you put into it. You decide how you would like your body to thrive. Get the kids involved in making it and make meal-prep a fun time. Let them ask questions about where each ingredient comes from, get them to taste and offer suggestions about seasoning, which will make them feel valued. Create a few family traditions such as baking on a Sunday, family grocery shopping trips and family cooking night.

Make eating an experience.

Each meal time should be an event – you are celebrating the fact that the food you are about to eat is going to nourish your body. Present your food enticingly so that you are excited to eat it. Taking the time to prepare your food nicely, will send a message to you, and your loved ones, that you are worth it. Creating rituals like lovingly packing your lunch box, will not only ensure that you make a better eating choice, but it will boost your endorphins and make you feel good.

Eat meals together, as a family.

Sit at the table together and start to reconnect as a family. Take time to discover more about each other, laugh and just enjoy being together and appreciating one another. Structured meal times will help to instil better food values. During these meal times kids can be encouraged to chew their food more, taste each bite and explore the textures of various foods. They can also begin to listen to their bodies, figure out when they have had enough to eat and make healthier food choices, which will all help them to have a good relationship with food later in life.

Make a commitment to appreciate, respect and enjoy the food that you eat each day. When you focus on how you are eating, the decision about what you eat to fuel your body will naturally begin to evolve too.