Mindful eating is much more than literally watching what you eat! Nutritionist Liza Rowan gives mamas the tools to stick to their nutrition goals.
As a busy mum, chances are you hardly have two seconds to stop to think what day it is, let alone get time to relax and enjoy a meal. At the same time you might be frustrated that you’re not back to your pre-pregnancy weight, or haven’t shed the few kilos you gained over the summer months.
Now that you’re back in Singapore, you think, you must be eating less as you rarely have time for a proper meal; you’re running around like you’re partaking in a non-stop circuit class — yet you’re not getting the results you want.
Could it be that you are eating more than you think? Simply because you don’t give your mind the time to register that you have actually had a meal, or you’ve eaten more than a meal’s worth when all your grazing and nibbling is combined.
As busy mums, we tend to eat on the go, and can easily overeat without realising we are doing so. Sometimes when we’re not even hungry – we’re dashing around from A to B, picking on meals and snacks as we prepare them, stealing bits off our kids plates as we’re ‘eating later with Dad’; and then, as we rightly hate waste, we refuse to throw out any of the kids’ leftovers – so it goes into our mouths…and makes its way to our hips
Mindless eating or overeating usually means weight gain, later leading to deprivation and yo-yo dieting, which is no good for our body, our mind, or our general wellbeing.
So what are the triggers to over-eating? How do we stop and is there an alternative? Firstly let’s be aware of the reasons why we eat more than we intend:
Boredom: There are only so many times you can watch Spongebob Squarepants before those cookies start calling your name.
Shadowing: You’re out on a rare date night, catching up with hubby – whose metabolism is twice as fast as yours – but unawares, you eat and drink as much as he does.
Feeling down: You miss your family and friends, and therefore munch away your loneliness.
Being Polite: How can you refuse your pal’s warm chocolate brownies that she brought around as your kids enjoy a playdate? Wouldn’t that be so rude? What sugar detox?!
Feeling anxious: You’re worried about little Sammy’s tantrums when you drop him at preschool … a few double choc-chip cookies with your morning coffee might help.
Poor planning: You never ate breakfast before drop-off; so, with no snacks on hand, you grab a Starbucks Frappucino and muffin after your morning pilates class
When we make a poor choice, acceptance afterwards is important. Rather than wallow in regret and guilt, resolve there and then to choose better next time. If we are serious about becoming healthier, or losing weight, then we need to somehow take control, and stay focused on what we are doing.
Stephen Covey, famous author of the 7 Effective Habit series, taught us to increase that space between stimulus and response. In this space lies our opportunity to choose. Lengthen that pause (space) to bring more awareness, so that we have a better chance of making the right decision, and therefore achieving our goal to become healthier. Once we confidently make that better choice, it becomes easier to do so next time, and soon we have developed a good habit.
To help motive you to make the better choice, write down a list of reasons why you should NOT eat mindlessly. For example:
- I don’t feel hungry, so I don’t need to snack right now
- Okay, I’m feeling bored / anxious / dejected, what else can I do, rather than eat when I don’t need to? I know this just makes me feel guilty
- Eating this contributes nothing to my good health. I want to have more energy / I want my skin to look better / I want to be a good example to my kids
- Rather than eat junk, I will choose a healthy snack that I can enjoy, and will take the time to savour it
- I really want to focus on being healthy so that I will look and feel confident in that new outfit
There are many tools that can assist in making that better choice. Some of these are:
1. Slow it all down…
Shouldn’t we make the time to do the things that we love?
If, like me, you simply love food, then shouldn’t we spend more time enjoying it? This doesn’t mean eating more, it simply means taking the time to savour and really taste our food. Indulge in the pleasure – eating – that is necessary for your body and mind to function. Not only that, when we slow it all down our digestion is better, better delivering the nutrients we need. Additionally, our mind registers that we have actually eaten – therefore reducing the cravings to snack soon afterwards.
2. Understand nutrition
Know the basics of nutrition and what foods work well for you
Perhaps some of your nibbling is a result of not eating adequate healthy fats and quality protein with meals, which digest more slowly, so you feel hungry soon afterwards.
Learn how to read food labels, and where to buy healthier food items
Do you know that 4 grams of sugar in a serving translates to a teaspoon of sugar, and that package serving sizes are underestimated so the figures are made to look more appealing?
Understand better meal choices when eating out and traveling
I often use the tag line ‘there’s a healthier version of everything’ – sometimes it’s just a case of asking for sauce on the side, grilled not fried… or for a special dietary meal when flying
3. Be more organised
Know the simple art of menu planning, with access to healthy recipes
Although you seem to have no time to prepare and eat proper meals, planning a little ahead of time will help. Have a repertoire of favourite recipes, cook extra to use later the week, learn to love leftovers!
Shop efficiently and effectively
Maintain shopping lists for standard items; utilise online and delivery services that are usually free here in Singapore
Stock your kitchen with healthy items
Fill our fridge with nutritious foods, to cram out the bad – if your surrounded by healthy food, you can only eat healthy food! To further help exercise your willpower, put hubbies chocolate treats well out of your reach. Keep some of these healthy snacks on hand as planned snacks, or for when the nibbles do set in, and you can’t seem to shake them off. For even more tips be sure to download my Healthy Snacking Guide.
4. Smart tools
Keep lists of quick healthy snacks and packed lunches
Refer to Mix & Match packed lunch ideas in this article, and the Healthy Snacking Guide above
◦ Crave something salty – make your own popcorn
◦ Love chocolate? Try making your own – you’ll savour these treats!
◦ Look at menus online before heading to a restaurant
◦ Keep a food and exercise journal
With the right focus, knowledge and determination, we can overcome any obstacles that lie in the way of our health aspirations. We all want to be fit and healthy for a host of reasons – we owe it to ourselves, to our partner, to our kids, to put effort into achieving these goals. They are within reach when we learn to take control of what, when and how we eat. We will get that control if we invest the time to acquire the appropriate knowledge, skills and attitude for our better Health & Vitality.