Photo credit Mira Bozhko
I feel with absolute certainty that my journey towards a simpler way of life is still in its infancy. Even two years in, I am just beginning to understand the breadth that simplicity can have across life. How it can, if we allow it, seep into every corner. Even into our way of eating. How eating more simply and mindfully can have incredible benefits.
Before we talk about these benefits though, let’s take a look at what the opposite looks like. Because simple is not always synonymous with mindful, particularly when it comes to food!
For some people, simple eating means stopping at the local fast food joint. Busy lives lead to a lack of preparation and planning so when we find ourselves hungry we go with the fastest and simplest option – takeaway burger and fries. Instant relief. And this is especially true at this time of the year. Too busy doing last-minute shopping to cook? Pizza on the way home!
But this temptation to opt for the fastest route is usually not a mindful one.
Even if it’s not takeaways from our local burger joint, if we don’t put some thought into what we are going to fuel our bodies with – packaged food is usually what we revert to, even at home.
With the busy Christmas season upon us, laden with invitations to work parties, daycare breakups, and social gatherings, it’s no wonder that December is the most common time people gain weight.
Food as a deity
If your family is anything like mine, food plays a big part of the celebrations of Christmas and New Year. The menu is important! Favorite dishes are prepared, some traditionally only served at Christmas, along with new recipes, sometimes days in advance. And the dishes must not fail so some of us are even making and eating trial runs!
It’s almost bizarre the amount of attention our taste buds, and bellies get at this time of the year! We worship food like a deity instead of being recognized and thanked for doing its job to nurture and sustain our bodies.
It’s not surprising then that so many of us find Christmas time indulgences have led to weight gain. And if you’ve ever had to lose weight, it almost universally takes at least double the time to get back to your previous weight.
Last Christmas, and all of January, I pretty much ate whatever the heck I liked. There was so holding back, and certainly no thought into what I was putting into my mouth. I consumed food like I was about to enter a cave and hibernate through autumn. And yes, I gained weight. But something else happened. I lost my inner food compass. The compass that has previously been grounded in a healthy dose of moderation and sensible-ish eating.
And my compass remained lost for most of 2017. I just couldn’t get it back. I had broken good habits and replaced them with mindless consumption.
I desperately needed to find my compass again! Although, yes, science means we do need to consume fewer calories than we burn to lose that excess weight. But I needed something that brought my compass back.
So I decided to try eating more mindfully. Noticing my food. Eating simply. Vegetables, fruit, and protein.
Mindful eating is;
- Eating without distraction, no TV, no phone, no devices at all!
- Stopping to eat instead of eating on the go
- Letting the food linger in your mouth so you can taste it
- Noticing what you food looks, smells, feels and tastes like
- Noticing how the food breaks down as you chew it
- Paying attention to how your body feels after you’ve eaten.
Mindful eating… truly pausing and taking notice of our food is may help us keep the pounds off. A review of 47 studies on distractions while eating found that increased distractions increased participants immediate AND later intake of food!
The five second rule
One tool that will help slow down and eating more mindfully is the 5 second Rule. It sounds super simple but it’s actually a research backed form of meta-cognition designed to interrupt our bad habits and help form positive behavior changes.
It works like this. Whenever you feel an instinct to do, or not to do something that will benefit you, like going for a run, or saying no to desert, you count backwards from 5 and when you get to zero you get up and MOVE. The counting and moving interrupts your habit of talking yourself out of the run. Or talking yourself into having the desert.
This Christmas and New Years I’m making the decision to eat as mindfully as possible. I don’t want to diet. I don’t want to NOT eat Christmas pudding. But I do want to pay attention to my body and treat it with the respect it deserves.
So I encourage you to try eating mindfully at your next meal. It’s highly likely that you will consume less and feel more grateful for the food that is nourishing your body.