We all eat every day, and the food we choose can be a powerful influence on our wellbeing, health, energy and mood. How we eat is just as important. Mindful attention to the simple act of eating has the potential to transform your health significantly for the better. Eating mindfully promotes a healthy body weight, more conscious food choices, and healthier digestion. It also ensures optimum absorption of nutrients, optimum energy from what you eat, and increases self-awareness. | WORDS BY PHOEBE BOONKERD
Eat slowly, chew food well
If there is one food habit that you should adopt long term, this is the one it should be. Chew each mouthful to a liquid state before you swallow and put your eating utensils down between mouthfuls. This gives your digestive system a chance to communicate to your brain more effectively that you are full and also gives you a chance to listen to that signal, resulting in smaller portion intake.
We are more likely to overeat when we gulp our food and do not chew. Proper chewing initiates digestive enzyme secretion, and increases the surface area of food, resulting in improved nutrient absorption and digestion. Try eating slowly, chewing each mouthful up to 20-40 times
Hara Hachi Bu to you!
This is a cultural habit – Eat until 80 Percent Full – practiced on the island of Okinawa, Japan, one of the world’s most healthiest and long-living population groups. Studies show that those who practice Hara Hachi Bu consume 30% fewer calories than average, or who practice Hara Hachi Bu, actually age more slowly and live longer. This light under-eating at each meal also optimises digestion and reduces common symptoms such as gas, bloating, belching and other discomforts.
Nourish your body with as many high quality foods you can afford or obtain. Your body is the vehicle in which you travel through life, and it deserves the best fuel so it serves you well into the future. The human body needs an abundance of plant foods, mostly vegetables as the dominant food group, supplemented by quality proteins, good fats and a smaller proportion of grains and root vegetables. Eat a rainbow of colour and variety of foods every day. This is the foundational principle of healthy eating and as a general philosophy, and as a lifestyle choice it is the golden rule.
Time your meals well, and always eat breakfast
It is important to start your day with a healthy breakfast – make time to savour and enjoy it – smoothies, juices, organic eggs, wholegrain porridges, grainy bread, avocado,
and fresh or sautéed vegetables are all great options. Overall, increasing the volume of vegetable intake in favour of carbohydrate staples (bread, rice, pasta), and maintaining a protein food at each meal supports balanced energy and a healthy body weight. Eat sensible sized portions approximately every 4 hours, allowing a healthy appetite for each meal. 3 meals plus an afternoon snack is a pattern that suits most people.
Make sure there is a ‘fast’ to break!
Ideally, make sure that the time between dinner and breakfast is a 12-hour fast. Digestion slows down at night, and we need fuel for the day. This simple fact means that the body is designed for a healthy, good-sized breakfast before 9am, a substantial lunch before 1pm, and a light dinner that finishes by 8pm for the body to renew, detoxify and rest as we sleep. It’s best to stop eating 3 hours before sleeping. If your schedule is far away from this ideal, do what you can to gradually shift it. If you must eat late, vegetable soup
is recommended, as it is easy to digest, filling and less likely to burden your system, which promotes weight gain and ‘morning fog’. If you aren’t hungry for breakfast, you probably ate too much, too late the night before.
Eat to live, rather than live to eat
Healthy eating can be applied to what the Taoist philosophy calls ‘going in two directions at once’. This means, in one direction, focus on eating healthy food, get organised, sort out how you can logistically eat healthily, who is preparing it, to what recipes, and what you plan to eat, and then, and in the other direction, let food go a little, don’t make it the main focus of your life. Eat mindfully in the act itself, and then get on with your daily tasks, forget about food for a while.
Avoid poor combinations or foods that burden your body
If you have digestive problems, this is especially important, and you may get a lot of insight from a food and symptom diary. Fruits should be eaten alone, or before meals, never after, as this compromises digestion and encourages gas. Avoid drinking a lot of fluid
with your meals as this also compromises digestion. Take notice the effects of the foods you eat, and avoid foods that you associate with discomfort or excessive fatigue.
Food intolerance testing is very useful for ascertaining individual sensitivities.
What about cravings?
Sugar and carb cravings are a symptom of poor nutrition and fatigue. The intensity of cravings can be used as a barometer of how stressed, fatigued or poorly nourished you are. A more balanced eating plan can be of great assistance in preventing this. Sleep, emotional issues and stress are also essential to address and have a direct effect on cravings, eating patterns, and body weight.
How much is enough?
We all have slightly different needs in terms of portion sizes, but it is safe to say that many of us overeat routinely, which makes
us lose our sense of how much we should actually eat. To re-connect with this, one of the best techniques is to eat slowly. Another helpful technique is to use your own hand as a guide. This gives a good estimate, based on your body size:
Protein foods: the size and thickness of your own palm, or a handful of non-animal proteins such as beans and tofu
Non-starchy vegetables: 2-3 large handfuls (2 cooked, 3 raw)
Carb staples: as much as could t in your own cupped hand
Fats: no more than your first three fingers- size portion of nuts or seeds or 1 tablespoon of cold pressed oil per meal
You are what you eat!
It’s a plain fact! Eat lots of starch and simple sugars (bread, pastries, candy, chocolate, alcohol, potatoes, etc.) and you will become overweight (excess sugars in the body are converted into fatty acids which are stored as fat). Eat fried food and not only are you saturating your body, arteries and veins with gunk, but that gunk is in a free radical state. You’ve heard of free radicals right?
It’s what everybody’s telling you to avoid
by taking anti-oxidants. Well even better, combine our with high heated Trans-fat oils (as in French fries, donuts, fritters, etc.) and you have a recipe for obesity, Diabetes, and chronic disease. YOU NEED to eat fruits and vegetable if you are going to be truly healthy. That’s a fact! Learn to immerse yourself in the wonders of the plant kingdom. You’ll glow for it.
Eat in peace
Eating in stressful environments, such as over your keyboard, an argument or intense conversation, a TV show, in a mindless haze in the car, or when you are stressed or upset is hard on your digestive function and promotes digestive disturbance, overeating, too much of the wrong foods, guilt, and a bad relationship with food as a crutch for stressful emotions. Eat in a place where you can be calm, with minimal conversation of light topics, if any. Create a feeling of ceremony, with some aesthetically appealing table settings, bowls, and implements. Treat eating as an important act, and a chance to relax 3 times a day. Savour the moment, the environment, the company (even your own) and the flavours.