Earlier in the month, Sarah West, who is a nutritionist for Teladoc Health UK, commented on a piece on inews.co.uk, discussing ‘treat’ culture (using food as a reward) and how children can learn about eating food mindfully –
“It’s about not demonising certain foods and allowing them only on special occasions in a bid to limit intake (when they then become associated as a treat).”
“If all foods are treated equally, children have a much better chance of learning to consume them mindfully. For me this beats not letting your child taste sugar unless it’s someone’s birthday, when they eat the entire cake.”
With this in mind, how can those of us wanting to be mindful of food consumption implement new tactics around ‘treats’? Sarah writes:
Comfort eating is a very prevalent issue when speaking to patients about their barriers to healthy weight management. This is often because we become very reliant on food to light up the reward centre in our brain (the part of your brain that releases feel-good hormones, such a dopamine, when you do something enjoyable). When your life feels busy and stressful, it’s one of the easiest, most accessible ways to give ourselves a boost (often without even realising we’re doing it).
Being mindful is about allowing yourself to be present in the current moment. This helps us as individual be appreciative about our surroundings and register our physical responses to situations. This allows us to make decisions that are right for us. Mindful eating is a similar practice.
In today’s fast paced society, we are often guilty of munching mindlessly in front of the TV, laptop or our phones only to look down and wonder where our food has gone. This is learned behaviour – babies and toddlers generally do not eat like this. They tend to (stubbornly!) only consume what they want / need, and will have a single bite of a food if it isn’t pleasing to them or they’re not hungry for it.
It is very useful to become aware of your patterns related to eating and find ways to interrupt those that don’t help you achieve your health and fitness goals.
Eat like a toddler! Don’t demonise certain foods or ingredients and instead try to enjoy everything in moderation. You’ll enjoy eating your meals more if you are not restrictive but focus on becoming aware of what you are eating, your body’s signals of hunger and fullness and how much you’re enjoying each bite.
Chewing well also helps to mechanically break down food and release digestive in our saliva. Eating too quickly and bypassing this important stage of digestion puts more pressure on the rest of the digestive tract, often leading to bloating and gas.
As you get more in touch with your emotions and experiences while eating, you may find that your food preferences change, you consume less at each meal and your overall diet improves. This is a common side effect.
Encouraging family members, especially children, to exercise mindfulness around eating can encourage them to make healthier choices and form positive relationship and associations with food.
Our nutritionists provide clarity and advice to empower your members to achieve their dietary-related goals. All of our advice is practical, easy to understand, and evidence-based. Making dietary changes for life requires an understanding of healthy diets, behaviour change, balance, and embracing progress as a key – not perfection.
Find out more about our Nutrition Consultation Service here.
Read the full piece on inews.co.uk here.