(This article was inspired by my very spicy chili recipe.)
It is true that it takes up to 30 minutes sometimes for an adult, to feel full after eating. We have stomach sensors as well as all those brain signals that try sending messages for us to interpret and decide on how to handle each situation – including when to eat and stop eating. This depends on what it is (food, drink, mixed), how much they ate, how quickly they ate it as well as age and personal differences like size of stomach, emotions, pain tolerance and let’s be honest – mindfulness.
Mindfulness. That buzz word goes around quite often now and it seems like, based on conversations I have had with others plus my experience in it, most do not understand it. Being mindful is just noticing what is happening. No judgement. No emotion. Just paying attention to cues (from your body in this topic) and then deciding with intent. It’s no hippy answer or yoga lifestyle you have to have. It’s just slowing down to pay attention to anything and everything (if you can) at any given time. In this crazy busy world, it requires practice. That being said, you need to start small and require constant reminders just like an alarm on your phone or scheduling a meeting.
It seems silly to do these things for eating. It is supposed to be human nature to just eat. How did it become so difficult to do what is supposed to be natural? We live in a Western world where things are constantly done by other people: house builders, plumbers, farmers, dentists, etc. But this extends to our food and eating behaviours. For example: growing up in a mixed-ethnic home, I saw fruit farming as well as having my Italian barber-dad who came from Europe when he was 13 years old. People talk about how Europe has it right with their Mediterranean diet and lifestyle. What are we missing here that I see still to this day – we don’t even crack our own nuts!
I’m not kidding. Yes, we have even found someone to crack our own walnuts, pecans, almonds etc. I grew up with a nutcracker (it is not a ballet at Christmas time people!) and a bowl of varied nuts, but yes, at Christmas many times. We sat around chatting, and having to “forage” and “process” our own food with friends and family at the table. Experts say, nuts and seeds pack a great protein and healthy fat nutrition punch (part of the Mediterranean diet), yet we need to limit our servings sizes. Well, I can tell you how the true Europeans do it: they have to spend time to get their food, and in the meantime, chat with their kids and neighbours – what we now call “building community and social support”. It’s very difficult to over-consume nuts when you have to constantly be cracking them open to get the goodness (yet high in calories and fat) inside. (They are healthy but in small quantities.)
I think we should go Back to the Basics (you will constantly hear that from me), and figure out why we eat so much but are so unhealthy and truly “empty” at times in a world that hands us everything on a silver platter, or in a grab-bag to go at a store a 2 minute drive away.
Here are my tips that might help you along – choose one or all of them to try. It might lighten the load in more ways than one.
Tips to Eat More … Mindfully
1. Cook foods from scratch. It helps you decide what you want, plan in advance and once you realize what goes into your food – you will actively choose healthier options. It’s hard to do that with a frozen pizza or instant microwave dinner that doesn’t give you the option of hold the olives, or add the broccoli you do actually love. And appreciating the end result will allow you to savour it more and longer.
2. Eat spicy foods – This goes to the principal of classic “waiting to eat” tips ex: put your fork down in between bites, or chewing 25 times each piece of food – but this is definitely something that will remind you to be mindful as the hotter the food, the more likely you are to drink tons of water (added bonus of hydrating and filling your tummy and helping digestion). So kick up the heat, and savour the flavour. (Ex: cayenne, chili, fajita and Cajun blends, even curry or ginger can work! But hot sauces can do the trick too.)
3. Size matters! Eat on smaller plates – use lunch or small dessert plates – you can’t eat as much if you have nowhere to put it… but then move on to idea #4.
4. Go back for seconds! Take half of what you think you want, or if following step #3 – you have to choose to serve yourself more. And better yet, keep seconds on the stove so you have to get up and decide on more food. Or food safety – package up leftovers and straight to the fridge, so then you have to wait to reheat food to have another serving.
5. Talk without your mouth full – practice your table etiquette (great for new graduates or families with children) and slow the process so you can listen to your fullness meter. As well, talking helps encourage positive relationships and will actually decrease emotional eating for those more susceptible to eating when lonely or upset.
6. Eat your veggies first – the heavy fibre will send quicker signals to your brain to stop eating. They are filled with vitamins and minerals but less calories by weight than say cookies.
7. And of course, crack your own nuts! Take time to process them yourself. You will eat less, and appreciate the work that goes into them more. And to have another serving of a food that you have to cut or chop, or crack, means that you will have to think before you want to do the work for another, however many calories and grams of fat, even good ones.
As a conclusion (geeze that sounds like a grade 3 “hamburger” paragraph – it should be a sandwich maybe instead for healthy marketing purposes), I do not say in this crazy time to not buy a fruit tray already cut up for you. It’s still healthy, absolutely. And you might reach for chips instead if you don’t have something healthy and readily available and in your face when you open the fridge. Definitely buy the fruit and veggie trays if that is the case. And if you have ready to eat “junk” in the house combined with minimal impulse control, this might not work either if that is your default.
Yet, if you want to get away from the costly pre-prepared and processed foods that help us to eat mindlessly (and way more than we usually need!), try some of the tips above to really choose what you feed your body (and soul). Now, let’s get nuts and get crackin’!