How are you eating?

“Hurry up and eat! You’re eating too slowly” I’ve been guilty of saying this to my kids and have also been on the other end of it. Life is so busy at times that food and meal times can become a habit of simply fuelling your body so that you can carry on with the next pressing task. This isn’t how it’s meant to be.

No more of this ‘New year, new me’ business either. Once upon a time this is what I believed. I have goals and plans but I’ve learned to be kind to myself as well as others and my success isn’t inherently tied to a date on the Gregorian calendar! This might work for others but no longer for me.

I love food. I love eating, preparing food and cooking it too. I’m lucky I guess. I know for some it’s not the case. I’ve sometimes muttered to myself that my talents are wasted in the kitchen, (Not in the cake decorating area. That’s definitely a no go area for me! Perhaps in another lifetime. Right now I have other things to focus on!)

It is true that I’ve never struggled with being over weight but I did grow up with a mum that yo-yo dieted and am acquainted with some of her struggles. “Treating” herself to the occasional rum baba for her abstinence from ‘bad’ food in general .

Towards the end of last year, I was at home by myself. The kids were at their father’s house for the weekend. I have a running checklist of things to do as I’m sure a lot of us do. I said to myself (out loud of course!) “Simmone, stop. Eat breakfast before you start on the roller coaster” I prepared myself a delicious breakfast, a black coffee and herbal tea, put on my plinky-plonky music and sat down. I decided that I was going to make this a mindfulness practice to avoid my racing mind. For some respite you understand. I looked at my plate of food. Took in the different colours, the aromas and thought about the nourishment it was going to give me. I took my first mouthful noticed the taste and texture. The temperature. Each mouthful different to the next. It was warming and made me smile! (I’m a bit weird like that but hey!)

It got me thinking about the way we eat. I wondered if the way in which we eat affects us. After finishing my breakfast which by the way was so much tastier because I had taken my time, I made a note to do some research.

Having read a few articles and scholarly papers, and a book called ” The Slow Down Diet” by Marc David, it is clear that there is a common thread. There is indeed scientific findings that eating at an appropriate speed is beneficial particularly to those looking to maintain a particular weight.

I’ve come across people who are seemingly doing all the right things according to the most popular guidelines ( movement, sleep, hydration and food quantities) and yet appear to be static in their weight and remain frustrated.

It isn’t only connected to how fast we eat but also to the environment and emotional state in which we are eating and cook for that matter. Are you eating for fuel or for pleasure? Are you focused on your meal or do you scroll or eat in front of the T.V? This is connected to our appetite and enteric nervous system, our stomach brain. It turns out that if you continually eat in a stressed ‘fight or flight’ state, your digestive system shuts down and your body goes into survival mode. So you see it doesn’t matter how many Zumba or HIIT classes you are attending or how much water you drink. The point is, it is how you are eating not solely what you are eating that matters. How you are eating has a profound affect on your body, your psyche has immense power!

According to Marc David’s book there are “..eight universal metabolisers that have been overlooked..” Two of these are relaxation and pleasure.

I asked a dear friend, who by her own admission has struggled with her weight gain over the years, to time how long it takes her to eat each meal for a week. The second week I gave her the exercise to slow down the timing of whatever she eats by 5 to 10 minutes. When we spoke again she talked about her busy family life and how the family had a takeaway one night. As we chatted she recalled that by slowing down she didn’t enjoy it as much as she’d hoped. Could it be that nutritionally her subconscious realises that it isn’t the best nutrition for her? Becoming aware or what and how we are eating is another metaboliser.

In fact most friends I’ve spoken to about this admit to already knowing that they eat too fast or don’t give enough attention to how they eat or allow enough time to savour a meal. This can and does have adverse effects if this is the norm.

I’m not a nutritionist…(yet!) Nor have I ever felt the need to go on a weight reducing diet. I have struggled at times with putting on weight and keeping it on due to stress. (See my blog post ‘Vera What?’ for more information.) In my humble opinion, there is no such thing as ‘bad food’. We can and sometimes do make bad food and drink choices. For example not drinking enough water is not the best choice for our body. Drinking coffee has different effects on different individuals. Does this make coffee emphatically bad or good? No. It depends on the individual. Is it healthy to eat fast food everyday? I don’t think so but if you haven’t eaten for two days and there is nothing else available but a burger, (hypothetically of course!) isn’t this better than nothing at all? On the other hand you might eat a healthy nutritionally dense salad whilst on the run or at your desk. If you see it as mere sustenance and wolf it down without a second thought it means potentially you aren’t extracting and metabolising its full nutritional value.

It goes much deeper than this. Based on our conscience and whether we are relaxed and relishing whatever it is we are eating, or if we are riddled with guilt, focused on our busy schedule, falling off the wagon with alcohol or caffeine, eating meat, eating forbidden chocolate and biscuits or eating something unsustainable to the planet, can determine how our body interprets and absorbs the nutrients.

This appears to be a huge key as far as metabolism is concerned and what we’ve become accustomed to in the mainstream.

To sum up, eat slowly and be in the moment of eating. Enjoy whatever it is you are eating and let go of the guilt. Continually eating in a stressed state will inhibit your digestive fire. Try to remain focused on your meal and as much as you can allow enough time to enjoy your food, whether it is a three course meal or a biscuit. Believe it or not slowing down could make you feel fuller sooner, therefore you might eat less and your body is better equipped to absorb all the goodness.

I could go on but there is so much more to it. This is an amuse-bouche. What we eat is a whole other ball game. The psychology of eating is fascinating. I hope this has given you a few nuggets to chew on. I urge you to do some research and find out more. It could help you or someone you know.

Peace and love,

Simmone

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