LIFESTYLE NEWS - Mindful eating is the new buzzword for a technique that helps you gain control over your eating habits.
Different “hungers”, said Jan Chozen Bays, one of the world’s leading experts on mindful eating, occur as sensations, thoughts and even emotions within our bodies, minds and hearts. When our senses are triggered by food, even if we’re not really hungry, we respond by eating. In order to not fall into this trap, Bays said we need to become aware of what makes us eat and why.
Bays is the author of Mindful Eating – A guide to rediscovering a healthy and joyful relationship with food in which she discusses different types of hunger.
The aroma of a neighbour braaiing or of bread or cake baking could set you off. Even going to the movies after you’ve had a wonderful meal and smelling popcorn could get you heading for that kiosk. Bays says our noses are always on the hunt for food. Because we’re surrounded by food, the brain is constantly being convinced to eat.
When you start eating, inhale the aroma of each ingredient or serving separately. When you start eating, swallow each piece separately while smelling it. You will notice that you will eat less than before.
Eye hunger is triggered by food that you see. It can be anything from looking at pictures of food to seeing adverts for food on TV and on billboards when you’re driving by. It could be a waiter walking past you in a restaurant with food for another table or food displays in shops.
Our eyes have the power to convince our minds to ignore signals from the stomach and body that we are full.
Beauty comes into play here. When you’re tempted by food, find something beautiful to look at. You’ll be surprised how easy it is. You may also be surprised to find your “hunger” has decreased.
Bays says the stomach does not tell us when it’s hungry, we tell the stomach when to be hungry. When we eat three meals a day, our stomachs will growl if they’re not fed on schedule. It’s important to listen to when the whole body is actually hungry and not eat just because it’s “time” to eat.
When you think you feel hungry, delay eating so you can truly assess if you’re hungry or if you’re dealing with another issue, like stress or boredom.
When you sit down to eat, take a second to assess your hunger. After four or five bites, reassess. Stop eating when your stomach feels comfortably full. It’s easier to tell when you’re full when you slow down instead of mindlessly eating everything on your plate.
Mouth hunger is linked to cravings. It’s the mouth’s desire for pleasurable sensations, said Bays. Food is entertainment for the mouth. What it wants is a “party in the mouth”. Mouth hunger is the most difficult to satisfy, because the mouth is only satisfied by pleasurable sensations.
It desires a variety of flavours and textures and keeps chasing taste, regardless of whether the stomach is full. Unless we stop to consider that the mouth is bored, we entertain it by eating.
It is not a bad thing to listen to your mouth’s demands, but it is in your power to stop eating as soon as the craving is gone. A few bites instead of a whole plate full can satisfy your taste buds.
Cellular hunger is what the body needs and not what the mind needs. Babies know exactly when they need to eat and when they’re full. Small children know what kinds of foods their bodies need. But as we grow, we get conflicting messages from parents, the media and advertisers and then we tune out the needs of our bodies, said Bays.
Through mindfulness, we can separate what the body needs from what the mind demands.
When you are hungry, pause and ask your body what it wants. Liquid or solid, protein, starch, fruit, salt, citrus, or something leafy? Essential elements satisfy cellular hunger – water, salt, protein, fat, minerals, vitamins, carbohydrates, and trace minerals such as iron or zinc. When we’re ill, the body often sends clear messages through cravings for what it needs, said Bays.
Listen for those messages and keep listening after you feel better.
Mind hunger is based on thoughts. It is influenced by what we hear, read, and see. It’s often based on opposites – what is good for you and what is bad for you; what you should eat and what you should not eat. Mind hunger changes. Butter was demonised for a long time, now margarine is bad. Fat was the enemy but now sugar and wheat are the enemy.
“The mind thinks the body would cooperate and eat perfectly if it could keep us informed about the truth, the scientific nutritional facts,” said Bays.
Become aware of what the mind tells you about hunger. Is hunger “good” or “bad”? Mind hunger is difficult to satisfy because we constantly change our minds. One day dessert is fattening; the next, we deserve a treat.
Meditating helps. Try to quiet the chatter of the mind when you eat and don’t pay attention to its critical words.
Heart hunger is also referred to as emotional hunger. We eat comfort foods when we’re lonely or sad or when we miss someone who has died. Our choice of comfort food is often an attempt to fill a hole in our heart. Emotional eating can be the most difficult hunger to overcome.
When you become aware of heart hunger, allow yourself to indulge, but buy or prepare a very small portion and eat slowly. Imagine sending love to your heart and enjoy the comfort it brings. No food can ever satisfy heart hunger.
Instead, we must learn to nourish our hearts, said Bays. Talk to someone you love. Play with a child or pet. Exercise. Create something. Try eating slowly and being appreciative of what you have.