“My problem is that I just love food too much.”
Have you ever said this?! I know I have. In fact, anyone who’s ever struggled with weight has probably uttered these words and been convinced they are telling the truth.
It sounds pretty reasonable, doesn’t it? I mean, it’s obviously because we love food sooooooo much that we eat and eat…and eat some more.
I wonder, though – is this really what loving something looks like?
When you love something, you pay attention to it
Honestly – if you had the same relationship with the people you love as you do with food, how long do you think your relationships would last or how well might your children survive without seeking out a therapist?!
Because, when we love someone or something (like a good book!), we will generally give it as much attention as we can, savouring time in its presence and squeezing every moment of enjoyment that we can out of it.
But when it comes to food, isn’t it the opposite? How much attention are you paying to this thing you claim to “love”?
I know I could answer ‘yes’ to many of the following:
- Do you eat by stuffing food mindlessly into your mouth while staring at a computer screen?
- Do you eat standing up?
- On your way out the door or in your car?
- After having an argument?
- While worrying about a conversation you just had?
- While watching tv? (Could you even say how many crisps you just ate from that tub of Pringles?!)
- Are you stuffing your lunch into your mouth quickly because you have ten other things to do on your lunch break?
- Or downing your dinner in 10 minutes flat because you haven’t had a chance to calm down from work stress or crying kids?
Nope. This just isn’t love.
If you’re not paying attention to your food, then you can’t say you love it.
So how about we look at this a whole different way…..?
What if your problem is that you don’t love food enough?!
It sounds ridiculous and counterintuitive, but also makes perfect sense (backed up by research). When we enjoy our food more, we actually eat less of it.
Yes, it’s true!!
How do you feel after a meal you’ve rushed through eating, compared to one you’ve sat down and savoured? Sometimes, the rushed meal barely registers with our brain and our stomachs. Even though we had plenty on our plate, we still feel unsatisfied, needing to come back later for snacks and treats. We’re looking for the enjoyment we never had.
“If you only taste a tenth of your food’s flavour, then you need to eat ten times the quantity, or food with flavours ten times more powerful, to get the same aesthetic nourishment.”
– Charles Eisenstein, The Yoga of Eating
You don’t understand – I would be out of control!
We tend to believe that if we let ourselves eat what we truly wanted, then we’d never make a healthy choice again. You say, “oh no, you don’t know me – if I didn’t keep myself on a tight reign, I would binge on cake, ice-cream, chips and pizza forever!”
But when we believe this about ourselves, it’s no wonder that the diet industry thrives on our need to be kept in line. We think we need more restriction, rules and self-control. We’re told we need to view food only as fuel. A way of simply getting the proper nutrients into us – it’s clinical and cut and dry and best divorced from our emotions and instincts.
Taken to extremes, this looks like meal replacements: just cut out the pleasure of food altogether and take a pill or a shake instead. That should keep me under control.
But how sad is all of this?
More enjoyment, more pleasure
Food is not just a matter of calories and nutrients. It is pleasure. It is nourishment for all your senses. Flavours, texture and smell are themselves a kind of nourishment – and maybe just as important, in a different way, as protein and vitamins. When we take time to eat a delicious meal in comfortable surroundings, we can feel a sense of joy and satisfaction in life that might otherwise pass us by.
And wouldn’t it be a pity for these simple, daily pleasures to pass you by?
Simple steps to showing you & your food some love
1. Stay away from ready meals and processed food – they are naturally lower in nutrients but higher in ingredients that mask this, such as salt and saturated fat. Eating processed foods leaves your body permanently unsatisfied, constantly on the hunt for more nutrition.
2. Instead, cook from scratch and choose fresh ingredients that are bursting with flavour. The most delicious ingredients you can find will usually be locally grown (travelling long distances or sitting in storage usually affects taste) and organic, where possible.
3. Think of your five senses when preparing your food. Feeling satisfied at the end of a meal is not about taste alone: if your food looks and smells attractive, this will also contribute your body’s feeling ‘full’. Bring plenty of colour into your meals by using fruit and vegetables as main ingredients. Use herbs and spices for flavour. Make each meal a feast for your senses!
4. Eat without distraction so that you can pay attention to your food and calm your digestive system. That means, move away from your computer and sit somewhere else – preferably at a table! Turn off the tv. Put away your phone. (This is especially tempting when you are eating alone.)
5. Resolve to relax and let go just for a while. Stress and digestion don’t work together. If you are anxious or worried, your body will be too stressed to properly deal with the important work of digestion. When you need to calm down before eating, step away from your desk – sometimes just going to a different environment (especially if outside in nature) is enough to change our perspective and mood. Once there, take long, slow, deep breaths and come back to the present. If you really cannot calm down, it may be best not to eat just right now. Wait till you feel better later.
6. Give thanks for the food. We may have lost something when most of us stopped saying grace before meals. Even if it’s just silently in your head, it is worth remembering to be grateful for the food in front of you and the moment of peace you have to enjoy it. Anything that helps take us out of our heads and helps us connect with the present moment will calm us and prepare us to eat mindfully.
7. Eat slowly, paying attention to everything. Many of us are accustomed to rushing through our meals, but this means we miss out on so much enjoyment and pleasure. With each bite, chew slowly, noticing all the smells, flavours and textures. Notice the temperature. Notice how each type of food changes as you chew it. Feel how your stomach is filling up every time you swallow.
8. Stop when 80% full. It takes about 15 minutes after you begin eating for your brain receive the signals that you are full. The slower you eat, the less chance you will wind up with a horrible bloated feeling from overeating. A trick employed by many of the healthiest people on earth is to stop eating when you feel 80% full. Given another 5/10 minutes, it is likely that your brain will catch up with your stomach and realise it is actually entirely full after all!
You may have a nagging feeling at the back of your mind that your life is too busy and you really should try to slow down. Maybe you’re thinking you should get to yoga, try meditation, go for walks…? All these things are good, but why miss out on the perfect opportunity we have to slow down, switch off and connect with ourselves three times each day?
What we learn in meditation is that there is only the present moment. There is only ‘now’. And happiness is to be found in getting out of our constantly worrying heads and connecting with what’s around us right now.
Bringing more mindfulness to our cooking and eating takes a bit of practice but pays off in how you feel. It can change your relationship with food, your body and yourself in big and small ways.
Love your food and it will love you back 🙂
So did any of this ring true or make you think twice about how you’re eating? Do you think you will try out any of these tips to see what might happen? Have you tried being more mindful in your life in other ways?
I’d love to hear your thoughts!