Mastering Mindful Eating
Maintaining a healthy relationship with food can be quite a challenge as a mom.
Where you used to sit down for well thought out meals over an hour or so with your friends or partner, dinner is now either a few spoons from the saucepan or ten minutes of manic eating interspersed with picking food off the floor or coercing food into crying babies.
Master Mindful Eating:
So the fact that moms’ diets often suffer is no surprise, with you left feeling below par, catching every bug that’s going, and not having the energy you need to look after yourself or your children.
On the other end of the scale, picture everyone healthy, well-fed, calmer, happier. It’s actually a lot easier than you might think. Taking a mindful approach to eating takes dedication and persistence, but your body and mind, and that of your family will reap enormous benefits from your efforts.
“My definition of mindful eating is thoughtful eating that bears in mind all the things we want our food to nourish,” says Herbalist and GP, Dr Dilis Clare of Health & Herbs. “This includes nourishing our bodies, giving and experiencing pleasure, being sociable and even calming our souls,”
Mindful eating begins in the supermarket
Choosing good quality, fresh, healthy food is the first step. Dr Clare suggests paying attention to the welfare of the animals you eat, the chemicals in the food chain and added chemicals in processed food, basically making the best choices you can within family budget constraints.
Taking things down a notch at dinner time is the next step. Dr Clare suggests that mindful eating is, above all else, down to paying attention to the experience of eating. “Tasting, chewing and swallowing food is an experience to be savoured. We do this best by sitting down, choosing good food, switching off all distractions and ignoring everything that beeps, rings and disturbs our awareness.”
Sounds ideal, but with a houseful of distractions, how to even begin to reclaim some calm?
“Unfortunately, we can’t switch off the children, so we need to teach them to pay attention too. Set time for regular meals, put everything you need on the table and sit down. Imagine glue sticking you to the chair – this means you do not move from the table for anything short of medical emergencies!,”
Family Meal Routine
Choosing any new routine for the family is all about deciding you’re going to do it, and committing yourself to it. Maybe spend a couple of days witnessing just how your family eats. Are you constantly running around at meals, is everyone in a fluster? Any changes you want to be made for the family need to start with you, so when mealtimes come, sit down to your meal – taste it, savour it, enjoy it. So many of us literally swallow food back without chewing, and wonder why we suffer from indigestion and bloatedness. “For moms who eat leftovers, remember you have eaten your meal so step back from the leavings on others plates. Before you eat, check out how hungry you are, repeat this question before you reach for seconds.”
It’s been well documented that a distressed digestive system leaves us feeling out of sorts, and there’s a strong link between gut problems and mental health disorders. “Family meals where mother is up and down like a jack in the box or when meals are rushed increases your adrenal stress and leads to poor digestive function with too much stomach acid and speedy digestion with poor assimilation of nutrients (symptoms common with Irritable Bowel Syndrome),” suggests Dr Clare.
On top of all the other stress that moms are under, the digestive one is probably one of the most manageable. So making your mealtimes more mindful could have a profound knock on effect in other areas of your life. To assist with a more “calm and happy” digestion, Dr Clare suggests including Chamomile, Fennel, marshmallow, Meadowsweet and Peppermint in your diet.
“The benefits of eating mindfully include more satisfaction, quality family time, better behaved children and a calmer household,”
Once you become comfortable with this new way of eating, your family will be encouraged to do the same. Keeping the mealtimes sacred could be that one great habit that you carry through your whole lives, and leave a legacy of wonderful memories from mealtimes where the family get together, relax, chat and truly enjoy each other and the food.
Dr Dilis Clare, is a GP, Medical Herbalist and owner of Health and Herbs.
Health and Herbs, with clinics in Dublin, Sligo and Galway, offers an online series of open access talks including herbs for digestion and stress. healthandherbs.ie