So how's it going? Are you managing to carve out a bit of time to have a better breakfast each day? I had a beautiful bowl of Greek yogurt with warm berries and toasted oats this morning and it was REALLY nice (just warm up frozen berries in a pan with a teaspoon of maple syrup).
I feel like I'm off to a positive start this week and hope you are feeling it too! Today I want to chat a bit more about the second StealthHealth concept I'm introducing this week (there are 8 in total), Eating with Awareness. Now I know what you're thinking, this sounds suspiciously like 'mindful eating' and you're not wrong, but don't worry, there's nothing too 'woo' here - let me explain (this is adapted from a piece I wrote for Top Sante magazine earlier this year) ...
A few years ago the concept of 'mindfulness' exploded on the health scene, suddenly it was everywhere and being feted as the answer to all our ills. I was curious to find out more but found the term 'mindful' off-putting - it conjured up images of ashrams, chanting and other practices that were frankly, not me. And whilst mindfulness does have its roots in Buddhism it’s something we can all access,
‘Mindfulness means awareness – an innate quality that we all have but gets easily lost in the rush of life’ explains Professor Mark Williams, Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Oxford, and the author of several books on mindfulness,
‘One way to understand it is to think of its opposite: ‘mindlessness’- when we aren’t really aware of what we are doing from one moment to another. It means that life is not enjoyed as much as it could be.’
I realised that this was exactly how I had been eating, mindlessly grabbing a quick meal or a snack on the run because I was busy or bored or tired. Once I’d framed mindful eating in this way, with the emphasis on awareness, I knew instinctively that this was the key to a better relationship with food.
So where do we start? In practice, eating with awareness is about giving yourself permission to eat well, to take the time needed to make conscious food choices and to enjoy the act of eating. To start with try asking yourself these questions before, during and after eating:
Why do I want to eat right now?
How hungry am I on, a scale of 1-10?
Will this food be delicious and worth eating?
How will I feel after I eat it?
Does it taste good enough for me to carry on eating it?
Have I had enough now?
How satisfied do I feel, on a scale of 1 to 10?
After a while you won’t need to ask yourself these questions consciously, you will instinctively know what, when and how much to eat and even when choosing to eat something purely for pleasure you can do so without judgement.
How will this help me lose weight?
By eating with awareness you will make better food choices and this, on its own, should have an impact on your waistline, but there are specific areas of focus that can help to accelerate weight loss if that is your goal.
Minimise calorific foods with little nutritional value. A large part of eating with awareness is recognising the difference between hunger and cravings. Often, we crave foods that can sabotage our weight loss goals, so try and find some healthy snacks you really love to eat.
Capitalise on the days you don’t feel hungry. Some days you’ll be ravenous, on other days you’ll hardly think of food at all. Work with your body’s natural appetite and eat accordingly.
Be aware of your portion size. This is a quick win if your eyes tend to be bigger than your stomach. Just think, if you eat a third less at every meal that’s the equivalent of another whole meal!
Keep hydrated. Thirst and hunger are easily confused. If you feel peckish have a drink of water and see if that does the trick, or try my favourite thirst-quencher, fizzy water with fresh lime.
Why does eating with awareness work?
Because no two people are the same. Traditional diets are a one size fits all approach, a set of rules that need to be followed no matter what your age, shape, lifestyle or food preferences. Conversely, eating with awareness is personal to you, when you tune in and understand when, what and why you eat you can make conscious, positive decisions to support your weight loss goals.
So that's the theory! I've been doing this now for around seven years and I would say it's the biggest single thing I've done to help reduce and maintain my weight. It does take a bit of practice but if you start today in a few weeks you'll have it down and honestly, you won't look back.
There's a good Ted Talk on this if you are interested to learn more, click here to watch.
Please be sure to comment below, I'd love to hear what you have to say on this topic or answer any of your burning questions which I can address in future posts.