The holiday season is over, and after all the indulging during the festive period, it’s a good time to think about our eating habits.
According to Pablo Vandenabeele, Clinical Director for Mental Health at Bupa UK, “mindful eating” may be a way to help us develop a healthier relationship with food, from avoiding unnecessary calories to losing excess weight.
What is mindful eating?
“Mindless eating is the habit you might recognise most when you’re at home – eating while watching your latest box set on the TV is a classic example,” he says. “Your eyes are on the screen and you’re automatically eating from a bag of popcorn, crisps or chocolate; not only are you missing out on savouring the flavours, you could be at risk of eating more than you should.
“Mindful eating is the exact opposite of mindless eating. Mindfulness has proven to be helpful for a number of conditions. It’s all about developing a sense of awareness and of being in the present moment. And the possible benefits of applying this practice to eating are plentiful.”
What steps can we take to improve our eating habits?
Here are Pablo’s top tips for getting the most out of meals and your interaction with food and drink, wherever you are.
#1 Chew your food slowly.
Not only will this help your digestion, you’ll feel more satisfied with your meal. Much of the time we eat past the point of fullness because we aren’t recognising when we’ve had enough. That’s why we can sometimes feel full and uncomfortable after meals.
#2 Get to know your food.
Have you bought it from a chain eatery or did you make it at home? Knowing exactly what’s in your food and where it comes from helps you engage with what you’re eating. Try making food at home to bring to work; you’ll notice the difference.
#3 Register the taste, texture and smell.
This very much applies the principles of being mindful. Whatever you’re eating, consciously engage with the texture of it in your mouth, the smells, colour and presentation of it.
#4 Give your food your full attention.
Try eating without reading or looking at a screen. When was the last time that you did this? I challenge you to try it and give your meal your undivided attention.
#5 Limit temptation.
Pre-portion your food so you’re not tempted to eat too much. When you’re busy and you need to eat on the go or meet a deadline, it can be tempting to skip a meal or grab a convenient snack. But, rather than let those moments catch you out, have foods at hand that are healthy and pre-portioned.
#6 Are you full yet?
Being mindful when eating focuses your attention so you can register when you’ve eaten enough and are satisfied. Slowing down and learning to recognise when you’re full can help stop weight gain, indigestion and a bloated, sluggish feeling.
#7 Check that you’re actually hungry.
When you feel hungry, just take a second before getting something to eat. Ask yourself this question: “Am I hungry?” Really think about it – if you’re unsure, try waiting 20 minutes. Then ask yourself again. Feel a snack attack coming on? Think about when you last ate. If it was less than three hours ago, it mightn’t really be hunger. Maybe you just need a break to stretch your legs or get a drink of water.
#8 Take the time.
My final point is really important: make time for your meals. They are essential to your health and wellbeing. I know what it’s like to be busy and on the go, but making time for regular meals will keep you energised throughout your day, fuelling your body and mind as you go.
This article was brought to you by Bupa Global.
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This article first appeared in the December/January 2018/19 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.