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Your body is a temple. Do you treat her well?
So many of us struggle with our relationship with food and our bodies. Many of us are aware that we have eating habits that are less than ideal and want to make a change. Others are aware, but happily in denial! A few have no idea the serious effect food and drink can have on our mood and long term physical and mental health.
There is a link between our gut health and our mental, emotional and physical health.
‘One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well’
I’ve always loved healthy food, could eat whatever I wanted without feeling bloated, gaining weight or developing any allergies.
After the birth of my second child, I experienced something completely new. Every time I ate I would experience severe cramps that wouldn’t stop or go away with painkillers. I started to become scared every time it was dinner time! I would manage the pain with meditation and deep belly breathing and was luckily very distracted by a newborn baby. I ate carrots, sweet potatoes and rice for a few months and lost all my pregnancy weight in weeks.
I felt like a burden with my stupid diet of carrots. I stopped going out for dinner. I turned down eating with friends. Food was just fuel.
I’d had a stressful time during pregnancy with some problems with my parents. The mental and emotional stress had taken its toll combined with the physical stress of pregnancy and hormonal changes that go with making a baby!
I hadn’t looked after myself enough and now my body was giving me a warning signal through the pain.
Conscious Changes and The FODMAP DIET
I made some conscious changes after reading about Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS):
- I set an intention to create a less stressful mealtime.
- I learned to slow down, pay attention to my thoughts, feelings and actions.
- I became conscious of my breath.
- I became aware of what I chose to eat
- I noticed the textures and flavours, how I felt during and after eating.
- I became aware of my eating urges and associated emotions.
My friend, a doctor suggested the FODMAP DIET developed by the University of Monash in Melbourne, Australia. This included an elimination phase to see which foods triggered my IBS and symptoms.
With time I realised that a wheat-free, dairy-free diet with limited sugar helped manage my IBS and pain.
I returned to vegetarianism (I was raised mainly vegetarian) and eventually followed a mainly vegan diet. This was particularly difficult as my husband believed that meat is essential for a healthy diet. I compromised by eating meat when I was pregnant and he only sourced meat from a locally grown farmer he knew plus elk and reindeer.
Vegan nutrition had a huge impact on my mind, body and soul. I felt amazing!
I was really surprised that I could follow a vegan diet as I am naturally lazy when it comes to food. My husband is the talented chef in our family and in our relationship I became used to his role as the chef and mine as the willing taster!
I set an intention to take responsibility for my own body and health without imposing this diet on anyone else.
To emphasise, this is the food and nutrition that suited my body. Everybody has a different body! Many nutritionists believe people from different parts of the world suit different diets. For example, I am Asian so my body digests a vegetarian, dairy-free diet best.
I also ate slowly at the table instead of wolfing down my kids’ leftovers standing by the sink.
This was very difficult as anyone who has kids knows that meal times change with small kids. I have 1 very picky kid and 3 who will eat everything. It can be hard to cook different meals.
I put myself first. I cooked for myself and hoped 50% of my kids would eat it. A happy, healthy parent means happy, healthy kids.
I naturally became more attracted to healthy, seasonal, locally grown foods which I have sometimes struggled with in the past. I love chocolate!
I started a ritual of eating which included always thanking my food and drink. Feeling gratitude towards the chef (me!) and the farmers who grew it, and sometimes the animals who provided it.
‘Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious’
What Is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is a form of meditation and self-awareness. Next time you eat think about the following:
- Why you feel like eating, and what emotions or needs might be triggering the eating.
- What you’re eating, and whether it is healthy.
- The look, smell, taste, feel of the food you’re eating.
- How it makes you feel as you taste it, as you digest it, and throughout the day.
- How full you feel before, during and after eating.
- Your emotions during and after eating.
- Where the food came from.
This is a skill, a form of meditation, that you don’t just acquire overnight. Like most skills, mindful eating takes practice.
Common Misconceptions About Mindful Eating
- It’s just another diet
- It’s just another trend
- I don’t have time
- It’s boring
- It’s too difficult.
- Eating healthily is too expensive
5 Effective Ways To Practice Mindful Eating
1. EAT SLOWLY
2. RECOGNISE YOUR OWN BODY’S UNIQUE HUNGER SIGNALS
3. CREATE HEALTHY EATING ENVIRONMENTS
4. BE AWARE OF YOUR MOTIVATIONS
5. CONNECT WITH YOUR FOOD
Tips For Success
• Listen to your body and stop eating when you start to feel full
• Pay attention to your body’s hunger signals like low energy, and responding by eating.
• Eat at set time and in a certain place, not on the move.
• Eating with company rather than alone
• When eating, just focus and enjoy eating. Not chatting or scrolling on your phone
• Reflect where the food came from. Is it local? Is it seasonal? Can you name and count the ingredients?
• Eating mainly foods that are healthy.
- Food preparation saves time. cook in bulk.
- Eastern cuisine, eg Indian, Chinese, Thai is often mainly vegetarian or even vegan.
The Last Thing You Need To Know About Mindful Eating
- Mindful eating is a journey of self-discovery
- It takes time to see benefits.
- It is a practice
- It is challenging
- It is not a form of self-punishment
- It promotes self-awareness
- It promotes self-care and self-love
It is ok to have off days too. It is a journey to develop and nurture the relationship with you and your body.
I sometimes eat elk and reindeer when we go out for dinner and there are no good vegetarian or vegan options.
I love Nidar Smash (Norwegian corn snacks covered in cacao and cocoa butter). These are my not guilty pleasures.
I feel full of life and energy especially when I have been ‘vegan’ for a period of time!
‘There is no love more sincere than the love of food’
George Bernard Shaw
Thank you for reading!
What is your relationship with food?