Mindful Eating for Better Health

Karibu! How are you doing today and hope you’re staying covid-19 free? I know it’s hard but we all will be alright, eventually.

I plan on doing a short series on health and food but it may be pointless if I first don’t tell you why you need to pay more attention to your eating. There are some things we do very often that we become like machines, doing them in a repetitive, monotonous and habitual way every minute of every day. Those activities include walking, driving, our jobs, sometimes talking, as well as eating. Some of us have even developed bad habits when it comes to food and the act of eating. As hustling adults, eating is more function than fun. Doesn’t have to be.

For me, I’ve always had a weird relationship with food. I went from being a skinny kid who didn’t eat much, got ulcer at about 10. Then I became a competitive eater with my older nephew, I also found the joys of milk candy. Then I hit puberty too early, everyone called it, and me, fat. Then I stopped eating totally and became anorexic and super skinny. I genuinely hated food. So I had to use appetite inducing pills because I was becoming very very unhealthy. Finally, I started learning to eat like a normal human. Now I’m on my way to becoming a Zen eater, but I’m not there yet. Sometimes I still forget to eat, and my intestines are still pretty confused and heartbroken.

Mindful eating is maintaining an in-the-moment awareness of the food and drink you put into your mouth and body, it is a more effective weight-loss strategy than starving or keto-ing, or eating grass, although it’s hardly spoken about or used. It encourages you to slow down and pay attention to your food, noticing each sip, each bite you take, and savouring it.

Why you should try mindful eating:

  • Increased enjoyment of foods you eat.
  • Easier digestion, you’re not overeating or getting bloated.
  • You get to reduce calories; your body takes only what it needs.
  • You lose weight, eventually.
  • There’s less binge eating.
  • You enjoy the activity.

Put mindful eating into practice as you prepare(or buy) and eat your meals. It’s not the same as calorie counting. It’s more like, nutrient picking. It’s not eating grass mindlessly like a goat in the name of weight loss. When you understand what nutrients you eat, you can know what is too little or what is too much. For example, a meal of beans and corn (yes corn belongs in beans) will get you xyz and you’ve had a healthy lunch. A simple bowl of oats can get you daily fibre requirement, but when you add in a little bit of this and that, you’ll feel like the most powerful person in the world. Eating when you are hungry, or even before on a schedule, and stopping when you are full is an important part of practicing mindful eating.

Practicing mindful eating takes some dedication. Take everything you know about eating, take your excessive love for the convenience of rice and stew, and just throw it in 2020. I know the Nigerian in you may want your food all hot and spicy and very very heavy and tasty, but you might end up being unhealthy. Here are seven practices that you can develop, to help you eat mindfully for good health.

  1. Honour the food. Whatever has gone into making that plate, be aware of it.
  2. Sit Down to eat. Eating is an actual activity so pull a chair, get comfortable and get ready to enjoy it.
  3. Engage all six senses. I used to have a weird habit of watching movies or reading a book while I ate because I needed to distract myself from eating. Very mindless eating habit. You just keep eating because you can’t feel.
  4. Serve in modest portions. Take a little, and if you want more, go back for more. We tend to always finish what’s on our plate; home training. You can give that up now. When you start to feel full, let go. It is equally wasteful to keep eating after that. It was a bit hard for me at first, so I started to put my left overs in a small bowl and I can go back to. I always go back to it. And when I noticed how much I didn’t enjoy doing that, I eventually started serving my actual portions.
  5. Savour small bits and chew thoroughly. Stop “whacking”. Chew, taste what’s in it, before you swallow. If you made it and don’t like the taste, good news is next time you’ll put some more effort into it.
  6. Eat slowly and avoid overeating. Don’t rush your meals. You’re not in a military camp, racing against time. Leave the school hostel behaviour behind.
  7. Don’t skip meals. The best time for breakfast is within the 2 hours of waking up, or shortly after 7am. Lunch 12:30 – 1, Dinner 6 – 6:30. Your sound sleep will thank you for it.

Reading all these, you get why I said mindful eating is dedication. How will you have breakfast at 8 am if you wake up 6, have to rush out the door for work. Or eat dinner 6pm when you’re probably still stuck in traffic or at work. But las las, it’s probably laziness or disregard for eating that will make these excuses sound real to you. Simple steps like preparing your meals ahead, and factoring the minutes it’ll take you to eat into your schedule. Like maybe taking your dinner at the office before you head home. If you are into home made food, take your food to work. Compromise some.

There was a time I enjoyed taking ice cream every single day. The good news is, I have a problem with letting myself enjoy things, because deep down I know when you enjoy something too much, it is probably bad. So I stopped buying ice cream for the house and started buying yoghurt instead. If I can’t reach it, I can’t eat it. I fill my cupboards with healthy snacks only, and allow myself a treat every now and then because, life is not war. You will be surprised at how many healthy snacks actually taste good, and midnight snacking won’t feel so guilty! We all will need some level of self denial and self discipline.

Imagine a life where you did not have to go to the gym or use skipping rope, because life is not war. Imagine where you don’t feel pressured by internet pictures of socially acceptable bodies because you know deep down you’re doing your actual best. Just walking, yoga and light stretches. Imagine not having to stress your life because fundamentally you’re only feeding your body with good stuff. You can do this. I believe in you!

Health is vitality and life, Food is health and wealth. Take care of your stomach and the rest will follow suit. Stay safe! Asante sana. Xx.

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