by Jacqueline Alwill, Remedy Nutritionist
It’s easy to find yourself caught up in the rush of life and lose sight of the simple things like sitting, being engaged and mindful with your eating. Let’s take a moment to refresh that practice…
1. TAKE 3 DEEP BREATHS PRIOR TO YOUR MEAL
You’ll hear me speak a lot about the ‘rush and busy’ that we all put ourselves through, but it doesn’t need to be that way and it can start with each meal of the day to create change.
Take the time before each meal to stop and breathe. When I say time, just enough time for 3 deep diaphragmatic breaths. In through your nose, deep into your gut, observing the rise and fall of your belly and ribs. Oxygenating your digestive system. Expanding and releasing the tightness that you may feel through the chest throughout the day or leading up to your meal and most importantly to help the body switch off the sympathetic ‘flight or fight’ nervous system and allow the parasympathetic ‘rest and digest’ nervous system to take the front seat.
When we are stressed or anxious we don't firstly enjoy the meal, and our bodies being in sympathetic mode means we don’t digest it well. Taking these 3 big breaths prior to eating, eases our body into a more restful state to enjoy and digest our meal.
2. PUT DOWN THE PHONE
In fact, don’t just put down the phone, switch off all technology around you and have a solid break from the digital, information overloaded world in which we live and focus on the simplicity in what is before you - your food.
Digital media - whilst a wonderful tool connecting us with so much else in the world and during our day - needs a break too and meal time is the best break for it and importantly for you. Switch off digital and reconnect with what is before you which leads me to….
3. ENGAGE WITH YOUR FOOD
Once your phone is away and all distractions are switched off, ‘oh um, *grits teeth*, but what do I do whilst I eat?!?!?!’ people ask. Well, if not with other’s having good ole conversation, the answer sits right on your plate.
Have a date with your food. Don’t be afraid to let go of everything else, sit quietly with your food and appreciate what it is you are eating. Observe the different components on your plate or in your hand, the colours, textures, flavours and how they come together.
If nutrition is your jam, think about all the great little nutrients working together as a team and how they serve you through your food. Don’t skip over any of it, appreciate every mouthful which you take.
4. CHEW AND SIP SLOWLY
Well of course I do, you say? Let me share with you, most people, because they are rushing about in ‘sympathetic mode’ (remember that flight or fight nervous system we don’t want near our meals?) chew a few times on each mouthful, gulp down a big glass of water, juice or soft drink and then swallow. Later they might wonder why their digestive system is gurgling, bloated, gassy, cramping and uncomfortable.
If only this step was introduced more frequently. Chewing on each mouthful, between 15-20 times is one of the first and most powerful steps we can take toward improving digestion, energy levels and our health.
Similarly when you drink: before, during or after your meal. Be conscious of how you enjoy the beverage to accompany to your meal. For me, aside from water, my drink of choice with a meal is Remedy Kombucha. Not only is it delicious but it delivers incredible nutrition, organic acids and live cultures to the gut, and supports the processes of our digestive system. There’s no gulping and rushing, I take my time to savour each sip of my booch and appreciate the flavour derived from the long-aged and old school brewing process.
Engage with your food and be mindful not to bite, chew quickly and swallow. Take your time, chew chew chew, sip, be present and enjoy the moment with your food.
5. SERVE ONCE AND PACK THE REST AWAY FOR LATER
Portioning is one of the leading factors in weight gain, inhibiting weight loss and holding us back from being calm, connected and mindful with how we eat because of the overwhelming guilt so many feel from overeating. If we create mindfulness around how we portion our food and create a balanced plate then many of these issues can be resolved with ease.
There are two key principles I want you to think about when portioning your food.
First, fill your plate just once, then cover and pop the rest away for lunch tomorrow (if you cook extra of course). This will reduce your temptation to head back for seconds or just a quick ‘swipe’ which we’re all guilt of every once in a while, but it doesn’t need to be at every meal.
Second, be mindful of how you balance your plate with macronutrients - protein, carbs and fats. Fill half your plate with an abundance of low starch veggies (leafy greens, tomato, carrot, cauliflower, broccoli) first. Add a palm sized piece of protein or a full handful of plant based protein next. A fist size portion of starchy carbohydrates (whole grains, sweet potato, pumpkin) comes next. And finally add 2-3 tablespoons of healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, nuts, or full fat dairy. If you work with these ratios and serve once to your plate, you feel satisfied with your meal and the chances of feeling tempted to head back for more are reduced.
6. NEVER EAT TO RESOLVE EMOTION
Which is tough I know because food is a trusty crutch right? Makes you feel good, you don’t have to say much, it’s just there waiting for you, and to help you.
Reality though? Eating when emotional then creates an emotionally complicated relationship with your food. An issue far greater than that you were perhaps dealing with when you opened the fridge door or block of sugary chocolate.
Try working with point number one first - breathing - before leaning on food. Try going for a walk, putting your feet up against the wall, having a cold shower or jumping in the ocean, cuddling your partner, brother, sister, bestie, dog or jumping into bed and having a big ugly cry, but please, please, please, don’t make food your counsel. Whether eating it or starving yourself from it, trying to resolve temporary issues or emotions with food is only creating a damaged connection with it and your health long term.
7. TRUST YOUR GUT
Finally (well just for now…) tune into your body and trust your gut. Gut instinct will guide you well on your journey with mindful eating and mindfulness in life!
Your gut will soon tell you if something isn’t sitting right, if you’ve eaten too much and need to stop (that big exhalation you might experience half way through your meal is your stomach saying “hey! Getting pretty tight down here!”) or it will churn when you are emotional and tell you to calm yourself before you consider sitting down to eat.
Don't ignore the signals your gut and your body offer you, tune in, be trusting in what your body says, create awareness, peace and mindfulness around each and every nourishing moment with your food.
Image credit: Jacqueline Alwill, Remedy Nutritionist and brains behind The Brown Paper Bag.