Fam­ily mat­ters

Parenting - - Contents -

Trans­form fam­ily meal­times

WDo you re­mem­ber what you ate for break­fast? How it tasted, and how you felt af­ter­wards? Mum of three and award-win­ning well-be­ing spe­cial­ist, Lau­ren Par­sons, ex­plores the life-giv­ing ben­e­fits of mind­ful eat­ing, and how to cul­ti­vate an at­ti­tude of mind­ful­ness in our kids.

ith the in­creased preva­lence of adult and child­hood obe­sity, eat­ing dis­or­ders and count­less ques­tion­able di­ets on of­fer, it’s im­por­tant for us as par­ents to set a healthy ex­am­ple in our at­ti­tude to­wards food. Teach­ing our chil­dren how to eat mind­fully is one of the best tools we can equip them with to en­sure they de­velop healthy habits for life.

I first dis­cov­ered mind­ful eat­ing as a high school ex­change stu­dent in France. Af­ter strug­gling with my weight due to mind­lessly over-eat­ing the de­li­cious food, I found that by adopt­ing the French at­ti­tude to food, I ef­fort­lessly got back to a healthy weight (a story you can read about in my lat­est book, Real Food Less Fuss). The se­cret was not chang­ing what I ate, but sim­ply shift­ing my per­spec­tive to keep things in bal­ance and to eat guilt-free.

When it comes to nu­tri­tion, there is a lot of fo­cus on what to eat and even more on what not to. How­ever, what I have found, work­ing with count­less clients over the last 16 years, is that be­fore you ad­dress the 'what', it is much more im­por­tant to fo­cus on the 'how'. Ad­dress­ing how you eat is the start­ing point for real nour­ish­ment and hap­pi­ness. The num­ber one thing you can do to im­prove your eat­ing, and as a re­sult boost your health and feel fan­tas­tic, is to eat mind­fully.

Of­ten our eat­ing habits and at­ti­tudes to food are de­vel­oped and in­grained in us as chil­dren. It’s much eas­ier to nur­ture a pos­i­tive, re­laxed re­la­tion­ship with food from a young age than it is to shift those be­hav­iours later on. Role mod­el­ling mind­ful eat­ing for your chil­dren will im­prove your health and hap­pi­ness as well as theirs!

What is mind­ful eat­ing?

Mind­ful eat­ing means pay­ing full at­ten­tion to what you are eat­ing while you are eat­ing it, and to how it makes you feel. Sounds pretty sim­ple, right?

The chal­lenge is that mind­ful eat­ing re­quires us to fo­cus and elim­i­nate dis­trac­tions. We are of­ten so busy we feel pressed for time while eat­ing. Many of us multi-task while eat­ing, per­haps with TV, emails, so­cial me­dia, read­ing or even in­tense con­ver­sa­tion, which means we rush through our meal hardly notic­ing what is pass­ing our lips.

It’s strange, re­ally, when you think about it. Why would you eat a meal with­out pay­ing at­ten­tion to it? Think about the last meal you ate. Where were you and what were you do­ing? Were you sit­ting down, did you eat it fast or slow and do you re­call what each mouth­ful tasted like and how it made you feel? Why did you eat the way you did and is this your typ­i­cal pat­tern? Be­cause food is avail­able in such abun­dance, many of us have lost touch with our nat­u­ral hunger cues. Rather than eat­ing to sat­isfy hunger and wait­ing un­til we are hun­gry again, we of­ten eat purely out of habit and can snack mind­lessly right through­out the day. This is not ideal for our di­ges­tive health nor for main­tain­ing a healthy weight and body shape.

Over time, we can de­velop eat­ing habits that don't serve us. How­ever, we tend to keep these habits up sim­ply out of rou­tine or be­cause we've never tried a dif­fer­ent way. For ex­am­ple, we might as­so­ci­ate food with cer­tain ac­tiv­i­ties such as eat­ing ice cream while watch­ing TV, snack­ing on cheese and crackers while preparing din­ner or eat­ing chips on a long drive in the car. We might al­ways fin­ish our plate, re­gard­less of how full we feel or rou­tinely have sec­onds even when we are no longer hun­gry. We might eat lunch stand­ing, talk­ing, walk­ing, work­ing or do­ing sev­eral other things be­cause we feel rushed and over­loaded.

All these habits af­fect our di­ges­tion, our sati­ety cues and the to­tal amount of calo­ries we con­sume. It is sur­pris­ingly easy to ad­just your habits if you choose to do so. All it takes is a mind­ful ap­proach, which starts by be­ing in­ten­tional about how you eat. One of the best things we can do for our tum­mies and waist­lines is to slow down and fo­cus when we eat.

fam­ily mat­ters

Switch off all elec­tronic de­vices, large and small (or turn them to silent mode and put them out of sight). This makes a huge dif­fer­ence and role mod­els the be­hav­iour you ex­pect if/when your chil­dren have their own phones.

Look at each fork­ful or spoon­ful of food be­fore you eat it.

Savour each mouth­ful think­ing about the dif­fer­ent flavours you can taste. Play ‘games’ with your kids to guess what in­gre­di­ents are in the meal. This is a fun start to food ap­pre­ci­a­tion.

Avoid start­ing the next mouth­ful un­til the pre­vi­ous one is fin­ished.

If you are talk­ing, take ex­tra care to savour each mouth­ful and don’t feel you have to rush in or­der to speak. ta­ble. Once you adopt this mind­ful ap­proach, it will trans­form your eat­ing and your life. When we slow down and eat more mind­fully, we nat­u­rally reg­u­late both the qual­ity and quan­tity of our food in­take. In short, it’s hard to overeat or to en­joy poor qual­ity food when you eat mind­fully. I in­vite you to try it for the next three days. Pay at­ten­tion to how you feel and re­flect on the dif­fer­ence it makes.

As you con­tinue to fo­cus on how you eat, what you eat will change too. If you eat pro­cessed foods, you will most likely no­tice they leave you feel­ing flat, lethar­gic and un­der-nour­ished. You will no­tice your body and soul de­sires to eat more real food that leaves you feel­ing vi­tal and vi­brant.

It’s also im­por­tant to be mind­ful of our lan­guage when we speak about food. Teach your chil­dren that cer­tain foods are su­per nu­tri­tious and will help them be­come strong and healthy and this is why we mostly eat these foods. In­stead of la­belling foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, sim­ply re­in­force that we al­ways make sure we eat enough nu­tri­tious food to fuel our body well. Re­mind your kids that while treats are tasty, they won’t feel good af­ter hav­ing too many of them. These bal­anced, pos­i­tive mes­sages will help your kids avoid see­ing cer­tain foods as bad, and there­fore feel­ing that they them­selves are bad for eat­ing them, later in life.

Gift your chil­dren with the abil­ity to truly ap­pre­ci­ate their food and this will be­come a life skill they will en­joy and pass on to the next gen­er­a­tion. For more on mind­ful eat­ing, over­com­ing crav­ings and prac­ti­cal ways to plan, cook and eat well, go to re­al­food­less­fuss.com and check out Lau­ren’s new book, Less Fuss – the ul­ti­mate time-sav­ing guide to sim­plify your life and feel amaz­ing ev­ery day.

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