More Than a Bellyful
A Bellyful is Never Enough
One of the main barriers we face when it comes to eating mindfully is our tendency to be distracted whilst we eat. Our busy working lives may dictate we take our lunch breaks al-desko and our breakfasts on the fly. A busy home life makes mindless eating attractive; seductive even. In the post “TV dinner” era, there are so many opportunities to cut corners when it comes to paying proper attention to the essential food that nourishes our body. Staggeringly, over almost 50% of the population decide to skip breakfast in favour of an extra 30 minutes in bed the morning, whilst only 56% of us regularly cook or prepare food for ourselves each day.
Worse still, we can “learn” to ignore the signals and get used to “running on empty”
Skipping breakfast plays havoc with our internal cellular clocks, putting our bodies into a state of starvation for the majority of the morning, a time when we may need to be most productive. It also means we’re off to a bad start to the day, because our ability to focus and concentrate diminishes as our bodies crave sustenance. Worse still, we can “learn” to ignore the signals and get used to “running on empty”. In the long term, this has implications for increased morbidity including diabetes, heart health, immunodeficiency and certain cancers. Whilst in the short term we subconsciously hanker after sweet, carbohydrate-dense foods such as bread, pastries and smoothies to satisfy our low blood sugar levels. And so the cycle deepens until we begin to crave a “quick fix”. A quick fix that at best will paper over the symptoms of feeling hungry, when what our body really needs is wholesome, nutritious fuel. And it is during these “quick fix” situations that we most often make poor, mindless food choices.
The twin evils of fast food and technology addiction are leaving our bodies feeling under-nourished
Mindless Eating is Seductive
How much focus do you put on your eating habits? Would you recall what you ate yesterday in detail, or even the week before? Mindless eating is the practice of consuming food, without conscious perception of our actions and satiety (feeling of fullness). When we eat mindlessly, we tend not to take notice of the meal we are consuming. In doing so repeatedly over time, our mind develops inappropriate associations between what we’re eating and the emotional impact it has on us. So for example, we may falsely regard sugary or high-fat foodstuffs as sources of comfort and pleasure. Never forget this, as seductive as it is, a bellyful of mindless eating is never enough!
… in fact, the most nutritious foods available to us, really are some of most delicious too
Prolonged mindless eating distorts our sense of what tastes good, as we “learn” to reject unfamiliar flavours and textures in favour of the “devil we know” fayre stored jealously in our emotional larder. When in fact, the most nutritious foods available to us, really are some of most delicious too. If only we could regain a sense of that balanced palate that has served us so well in our evolutionary development. In this type of relationship with food, we rarely pay attention to the quantity and nutritional content of what we’re eating.
Check In With Your Inner Foodie
To help you determine what kind of relationship you have with food, take a note of how many times a week do you do any one of the following:
- Grab a snack or drink on your commute, at work or on the go whilst being distracted by your busy schedule
- Eat dinner in front of the TV, your laptop or whilst reading a magazine
- Order a takeaway or delivery instead of cooking the meal you planned
- Start eating a packet of crisps or a bar of chocolate, moments later to find that the contents of the packet are gone!
- Skip breakfast, have a lighter lunch and eat the majority of your days’ worth of food in the evening time
- Go out for a drink with your friends after work, promising to only have one, and staying out longer than you intended
- Being too tired to cook, so you order in take-away food or fall back on a supermarket-bought ready meal instead
- Sticking to your diet plan for the whole day, until you get home and devour snacks and sweet treats
- You go from a state of starvation, or extreme hunger, to a state of feeling extremely full and bloated
- Spend your morning sipping on endless cups of coffee, by lunchtime you feel hungry and weak
If you scored 4 or more, chances are you could realise some massive health benefits by making just a few small changes. In other words, check in with your inner “foodie” – that little voice inside you that’s instinctively telling you what nutrition your body needs at any given point. This isn’t about finger-wagging and making judgements about an individual’s food choices. It’s about taking notice and being in control of your own wellbeing. Perhaps most important of all, it’s about truly enjoying your food in the deepest sense. Here’s one of our nutrition and fitness makers, Harry Snell, breaking it down for members attending the September BHappy Hub.