Lesson 6: The Power of Mindful Eating
This module has been put together in an effort to put it out there, that we largely feed our kids – and ourselves – a little wrong. We’re not saying that everyone does this or neither that we DON’T do this 100% of the time. We’re also not saying that anyone’s “guilty” because we can’t be guilty if we don’t even realise something’s wrong – that’s the thing with this problem - it’s mindLESS.
Today’s topic builds on things we’ve been working on already from different angles and gets us to help ourselves and our families be more present to the times we eat - STOP to eat to be precise.
Here's what we'll cover in today's topic:
- Interview with ex-food technologist Jules Clancy
- Are snacks to blame for the decline in mindful eating?
- 3 questions we need to ask ourselves
- Simple steps to start transitioning towards a more mindful way of eating
Before we kick into to today's topic, and a great segue from yesterday's additives topic, one of the most powerful things we can do to become happy to move forward with a whole food commitment is truly understand the lengths companies go to, to produce processed foods. Here is Alexx's chat with ex-food technologist, Jules Clancy.
WOAH, right? Crazy apricot perfume sprays instead of real apricots? Brown colour so that they can use less actual chocolate and cut costs? No thanks. Getting mindful about what's in stuff... slowing down to truly think about it, makes it all the more easy to move happily into a whole foods way of eating - Don't ever think your kids are too young to explain this stuff to. Explain things exactly as they are, but do so mindfully and carefully, meet your child where they're at, because we don't want to scaremongre and and create paranoia.
We seem to have landed ourselves in a place where we and our kids snack, snack, snack all day long. Snacks were born as a category from marketers seeing an opportunity to amplify a problem and resolve it by offering something to buy as the solution. There was indeed a problem. We couldn’t last until the next meal anymore. Why was that? We were hungry all the time all of a sudden? Why was that? Thing is, when a marketer can identify a problem, they can, therefore, develop a solution to fix it and create instant market demand. Bingo. Make small profitable, long shelf life packets to respond to this so-called hunger crisis.
Snacks gave birth to eating on the go. Snacks took us away from sitting at a table to enjoy a beautiful big meal because come meal time, who’s hungry anyway? We’ve eaten too many darn snacks an hour before dinner! Who can blame our kids for not being interested in anything but their favourite ‘low hanging fruit’ of the food world? Without the conversation of hunger, we don’t really feel like anything much. We pick. We push aside. We wanna go PLAAAAYYYYY.
Snacks were built out of the rise of grain and sugar based meals from the 1970s, because you just can’t last until the next meal with 2 pieces of bread and a tiny couple of bits of things on the inside or a few sugary flakes or puffs. You get hungry. You need something more. What a genius economic business growth strategy, right? Now we’ve got nothing against people making money, no. At the expense of health though? Children’s health? Then, yes, in that case, we do take issue.
So while snacking is the pervading tool for mindless eating, there’s the culture created from a very young age. Biologically we are terrified of our kids not getting enough food. We want to feed them whenever there’s food around. The problem with these times where there is easy access food and non-food everywhere all the time is this: We want to feed our kids many times a day and it’s setting them up for a fall.
Alexx describes her research mission:
“Trying not to look creepy, I tasked myself with sitting at a playground bench and watching parents with their kids. You do it too. Just observe. Within minutes, no matter what time of the morning, you’ll start to hear, ‘Want a banana? Want some biscuits? How about a gingerbread man? Here have a rice wheel, c’mon! Here’s a sandwich sweetie, just take a little bite’… You’ll start to see parents feeding and suggesting food while kids are half way up play equipment or busy in the sandpit. You’ll observe that the child probably had food furthest from their mind as they were in the middle of pretending to be on a rocket ship. You’ll see drink bottles being flung about mid-ladder. You’ll see cupcakes loaded with fake coloured toppings being brought out at 10 am after a big run around when a big drink of water was all that was needed. I’ve never once in the weeks of observing, ever heard a child say they were hungry to their parent. I’m not saying that a child won’t be hungry ever between meals, not at all and get excited about the nutrient density topic coming next week if you have one of those ‘always hungry kids’… I’m simply saying that in hours of watching and observing, I’ve not yet heard one say it and come for food – they never had a chance to even entertain hunger. It was prevented."
WE HAVE TO STOP PESTERING OUR KIDS TO EAT AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, WE HAVE TO STOP THEM EATING WHILE THEY ARE BUSY DOING SOMETHING ELSE. WHILE WE’RE AT IT, WE HAVE TO STOP DOING IT TOO!
Change starts with us here.
- Do we create mindless eating – eating around the clock, at any hour, without thinking about the food we’re eating or stopping to enjoy?
- Are we taking away a child’s natural instinct to be able to communicate or even feel, when they are hungry or thirsty?
- Are we feeding ourselves / our kids the types of foods that they only last an hour before the next pang of hunger strikes? And, is there anything truly wrong with a hunger pang in the first place?
We are instilling a fear of hunger without even realising it when it should be a feeling that is welcomed. Hunger is an important conversation our body has with us when we give it the chance to speak. Should we not be teaching our kids to listen to their bodies rather than primitively feed them?
The reasons we want to feed our kids in this mindless way are well meaning. We never want to have an upset child and always want to provide for our child. Whenever food was around back in our hunter-gatherer days, we’d feed our children as much as we could. We can relax now though. We can grab food easily and when needed and that’s something to be extremely grateful for when some in the world cannot. We are going to be just fine even if we come to feel peckish. We feel sad thinking about the poor kids who really don’t have much food and feel hungry all the time. We wish we could be feeding them instead of overfeeding our own.
Good big meals, teaching to stop and eat and enjoy is how traditional cultures do it. There might be a little afternoon tea, but that’s it. It’s way cheaper, way healthier because you avoid literally hundreds of additives and weird numbers if what you’re ‘losing’ is processed snacks. It’s way more sustainable because you avoid so many plastic packets and it allows little bodies immune building time, by having times where they’re not digesting food.
Or, if you find you’re a family that prefers smaller meals and a couple of small snacks in between then let them be real food as we are cultivating throughout THRIVE.
This is a wake-up call to see if we might be over-feeding unnecessary foods to our children – both because they might not be hungry and possibly also because many of the foods in question are processed snacks that there is zero need nor benefit from.
If you have hyperglycaemia, type 2 diabetes or other blood sugar related issues, then of course, speak to your health professional about your needs, however, you can improve your condition or your child’s with an experienced practitioner’s advice and counsel and even reverse many issues with a change of diet.
If you have a child under 2, they’re small and have small tummies and little tide over snacks are important between meals, but just one mid-morning and one mid- afternoon are fine. Incessant eating means lots of time spent digesting and not enough time replenishing the immune system.
If you’ve realised: Oh CRAP, this is me: Do not panic. Today is the day you can change it. We are recovered mindless eaters ourselves. We learn. We develop new habits. We move onto a better way.
Step 1: Do you eat mindfully? If not, start today.
Implement a policy at home and out, where none of you eat ‘on the go’ ie, moving. No walking, driving, TV watching, Ipad browsing while eating. If you have to stop and do nothing else every time you eat, chances are you’re going to realise that eating is not a priority and you’d rather be doing something else. Eat at meal times.
Step 2: When you eat. Concentrate on it and get your kids to as well.
The taste, texture, the sensation it gives you and when you are starting to feel full or lose pleasure from the food. Our minds lose pleasure from a food that we’ve had enough of. This is particularly dangerous with processed foods, as they mess with these natural messages and we can risk never being told we’re full – especially from trans fats, chemically made salt and fake sweeteners.
Step 3: Between meals, never suggest food to your child and if they ask for food, try saying ‘lunch is in a little bit’ if you’re less than an hour away from lunch.
If they’re super hungry, have a few cheese squares, celery sticks or crackers with raw honey and nut butter at the ready to stave off the hunger until mealtime.
Step 4: Up the nutrient density of your meals.
Can you add a little butter to your veg, a stock-based sauce to your meat, coconut cream or cream to your soups, stews or curries? And hang tight for lesson 8 where we dive into Nutrient Density for LOADS of ideas on that front. Slow and steady burning energy from nutrient-dense foods, means calmer, more relaxed kids. Now, who doesn’t want a piece of that action!?!?! You can also check out Brenda's Easy Wholefood Lunchboxes ebook here, or Real Food for Hungry Teens, for lots of nutrient-dense recipe ideas.
Step 5: Don’t call processed foods, treats.
Your kids will thank you for this a million times over once they’re grown-ups. Read Alexx's article on redefining treats here. Or check out Alexx's book on the subject, including 68 recipes here.
Step 6: Clear your own food issues.
Secret eating, constant browsing of the fridge, reward treats that aren’t real treats (see step 5 link)… You won’t be able to be the example you want to be for your kids until your own issues are gone.
So it’s time to reflect a little today. Time to take control if you’ve felt a little like it was a bit all over the shop of late. Harness your French mama inner, and say “Non!” to snacks late afternoon just before dinner time or half an hour after breakfast and swap the snacks you do offer, to nutrient dense, real food options - you’ve got plenty of ideas already and there’ll be even more next week.
Real food begs mindful attention and provides lasting satisfaction, especially when we slow down to enjoy it. Refined foods and high sugar foods beg brief attention, a brief high and then a big desire for more shortly after. That isn’t leading us anywhere good, so it’s time to get mindful.
Today’s topic is all about getting conscious about what we’re feeding our kids, how we’re offering it and when. It's time to ditch on the run eating or feeding while they’re preoccupied with something else, and becoming a mindful eating family. Sure it's fine to have a sports practice or crazy morning smoothie in the car sometimes but general awareness of our mindfulness will breed great results.
From today, even as you sit down for dinner, you don’t have to be religious to acknowledge the meal you’re about to enjoy. Just a simple “Gosh we’re lucky to have all this fresh food and be here together”. Simple as that. Create a ritual of gratitude however brief or small, and it will contribute greatly to a more mindful practice of eating for the rest of your children's lives. Comment on texture, taste, flavours, spices, the recipe book. Elevate the food past filling up and make it about nourishing ourselves. Maybe you have a way you’re creating mindful eating practice already? Shaman’s example of eating the mandarin and observing the peel, the oils in the skin, the fragrance the pithy bits and the juicy segments all as being part of really connecting to the time we eat as being one where not an awful lot else should be happening other than connecting with our family and friends.
Some interesting things may come up with this topic. Take the time to have a good think and make a plan for what becoming more mindful might look like for your family as a first little step.
Alexx & Brenda x
© Thrive 2020
Disclaimer: This eCourse contains the educated opinions of the authors and does not substitute for medical advice from your health care professional. It is your responsibility to consult your medical provider before making any changes to your diet. The author, therefore, assumes no responsibility for the decisions you take based upon the information contained in this eCourse.
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