Much attention is given to WHAT we eat. The thing is, most of us already know that we need to eat more vegetables and fruits. We need healthy protein to help us build muscle. Those good fats fuel our brain. Eat whole foods, and steer clear of processed foods. Yep, you know these things. WHAT we eat is important. Very. I’m not discounting that. But today I want to talk about HOW we eat. In order to create a truly healthy, symbiotic relationship with food, it is important to slow-down and eat with intention. I know what you are saying. “If I took the time to eat mindfully, I’d starve to death.” I know. Us moms have such little time for ourselves. Hear me out. These six tips are doable—not everyday, not every meal—but even the occasional shift in our mindset can reconnect us with food and help us lose weight without restricting ourselves or dieting.
- Slow down.
We are a fast-paced culture. Meals are less of a social, mindful activity for many of us, and more of a means to keep us alive. We eat with little thought. We grab whatever is easy and shove it as quickly as possible into our mouths. That half eaten goldfish looks pretty good. Just dust it off. Good as new. We eat in the car, standing at our kitchen counter, or slumping at our desks. This is particularly true of busy mothers, who find it challenging to urinate alone, much less sit and savor a meal. You are too busy cutting the crust off your kid’s sandwich at lunchtime. Wait, he didn’t want the crust cut off? Shit. You can’t glue it back, or maybe you can with peanut butter. He’s screaming now. Crap. What was she saying about savoring food?
Listen, I am as guilty as anyone about ignoring this advice and I am health coach for crying out loud. I shovel food in my face. I NEVER sit to eat. But let me preach what I am TRYING to practice. If you are mindful about what you eat, you are more likely to feel satisfied. Chewing your food stimulates the digestive process and helps food move through you better, and you then absorb more nutrients. And, taking your time to eat allows your stomach to signal fullness to your brain, so you are less likely to overeat at a meal. This is good stuff. You may not be able to meditatively sit and eat a meal, but being mindful about being mindful is certainly a start. Perhaps just putting the fork down between bites is the first step.
- Resist eating off your kids’ plates.
Eating off your kids’ plates is a recipe for trouble. Even if you aren’t giving your kids peanut butter and jelly on white bread, and you prepare the healthiest of meals for your kids, eating off their plates can lead to weight gain. This goes back to the mindfulness factor. It is hard to feel mentally satisfied when you are eating in the “garbage disposal” mindset. That food wasn’t made for you. Take a minute to think about what will nourish YOU. It probably isn’t that grubby sandwich that you tried to glue the crust back on using peanut butter. No. No, it’s not. Prioritize you. Take the time to fix yourself a healthy meal with loads of vegetables, and some good protein. Put on a Paw Patrol. Have no shame. Take that time to nourish yourself. That ten minutes of television won’t keep your kid from the ivy league school. I promise. What it will do is make you a better mother in the long run. Setting a positive example for your children through healthy eating, having the energy to play with them without that afternoon energy crash, and living a more vibrant life are all really cool things.
- Be prepared.
Always have some healthy snacks and go-to meals on hand. Food prep can look differently for different people. I am not a planner. I hate planning! For me, “food prep” doesn’t mean having beautifully portioned Tupperware containers doled out for the week. Although, admittedly, I do like looking at these photos on Pinterest so that I can feel inadequate. Personally, “food prep” in my house means having frozen shrimp and stir-fry veggies from Costco in the freezer. It means cooking a few sweet potatoes at a time, or making enough dinner to have leftovers the next day. It means going to the grocery store a couple times a week, so that I am stocked up and can always make good food choices. I don’t know what I am going to eat for lunch, but I know I have tasty, healthy options when I get to the kitchen. Other clients prefer to have a big food prep day, and plan meals for the week, cut veggies to have for snacks, and make breakfast muffins the morning. Good for you! You know you best. Do whatever keeps you from reaching for the processed crap. Find your version of preparedness.
- Drink water before you eat.
This is especially true before snacking. Sometimes the body is really just thirsty and not hungry. Water also keeps you from eating as much. So drink a refreshing glass of water and check back in with your body in ten minutes. Still hungry? Grab that healthy, prepared snack. Oh, yeah!
- Don’t eat from the container.
Have you ever grabbed a handful (or seven) of potato chips straight from the bag? All that was left was like four chips and some crumbs. “How’d that happen?” you quietly ask yourself. You shrug and quickly put it back in the pantry, because you don’t want to feel like you ate the ENTIRE bag. No. No. There were clearly some leftover chips in the bag, and besides, the bag was mostly air, right? You just wanted something to take the edge off. Yep, been there. It is hard to know how much you are consuming if you can’t visualize it. Dirty that extra dish. Your kids use a new water glass for every sip of water anyway, so what’s one more. Always portion out your food. You can go back for more if you aren’t satisfied, but I’d wager that a fraction of that bag of chips would be satisfactory if you were conscious of how much you were eating.
- Eat with fewer distractions.
Notice I didn’t say “with no distractions.” Your kids will distract you–always. And you can’t lock them up in the closet while you eat, but you can eliminate some distractions. Turn off the television (unless it is a cartoon you have on so that you can eat in peace!). Try not to eat in the car. Get off your cell phone. Wait until you are done eating to check Facebook. Just give yourself ten minutes to sit and eat your food.
You might find that when you shift your approach to mealtime and how you eat, you’ll also notice a shift for the better in what you eat. The mind/body connection with food is one of our most primal relationships. It is difficult to honor it in these modern times, but even the slightest adjustments can lead to big changes. Go, strong women. Nourish yourself mindfully!