Mealtimes can be quite hectic for moms as they speed around the kitchen frantically trying to figure out a seemingly balanced meal with a little one tugging at their leg or crying in the background and before long the entire process simply feels like a chore. Either they don’t choose the right food, the right amount, or the right times to be eating and end up feeling as though they haven’t really been satisfied all day. Not only will this lead to eventual weight gain or prevent weight loss, it also perpetuates an unhealthy relationship with food that is being inadvertently being taught and role modeled to their child.

Last month’s article Dump the Diet focused on the many reasons why dieting just will NOT work, but that doesn’t mean we should give up hope altogether and settle for a mediocre and subpar health status. As a mother, your needs have likely been put on a backburner for awhile and being mindful might be far from your radar these days. There are fantastic articles and videos about what it means to become more “mindful” in your everyday life, but to simplify a very complex topic it could be defined as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudmentally”.

While it’s ideal to strive for this mindfulness in every aspect of your life, my goal is to highlight the ways we can improve our health if we focus on how to be more mindful when eating. One could choose to follow Dr Michelle May’s steps to eating mindfully or well known dietitian Evelyn Tribole’s principles of intuitive eating, but in an effort to keep this article concise I will paraphrase the main areas with the hopes that you might seek out a professional (therapist, dietitian, wellness coach, etc) should you be interested in more detailed assistance.

  • First things first, we need to do our best to clear our minds of ALL the preconceived ideas we have surrounding types of foods and the associations they conjure up for us; for example, thoughts such as bread=sugar=gaining weight or cookies=unhealthy=bad. It is absolutely crucial that we try to get ourselves on a level playing field when contemplating what to eat or feed our children.
  • Next, think about what your body is feeling in terms of hunger and how much food it might actually need. (*Note, this step can be hard and require more practice if you’ve been a long term dieter and successful in suppressing the sensations of hunger.)
  • After you have dropped all judgments regarding food and feel you have some idea of how hungry you are, it should be easier to decide which foods might actually satisfy your body and your mind. It might be a salad, a burger, a chicken dish, pasta or maybe even just an apple.
  • Be sure that you are free from inappropriate distractions when beginning to eat. This means no texting, TV watching, talking on the phone, or reading emails. Not only is this crucial for your own mindfulness practice, but it opens up the awareness for you to connect with your children during meals and will undoubtedly foster better eating behaviors from them.
  • Now you will practice eating this food with a whole new perspective: appreciate the aroma and appearance of this food as you reflect on the tastes, textures, smells, and colors. Some will even find it useful to contemplate the origins of their food to help them connect to the taste and satisfaction gained while consuming it. When feeding children it is always a great idea to talk about these aspects of the food and provide some education about how it was grown, made, or cooked.
  • Once you are about halfway through your meal, take a moment to pause and consider how full you are feeling and whether you need to keep eating. All too often we eat the portion in front of us rather than the amount our body really requires, which as we all know will lead to weight gain regardless of whether the food was “healthy” or “unhealthy” in our minds.

At this point you’ve hopefully consumed your meal mindfully and even if you are feeling that perhaps you ate too much or chose the wrong food item, keep in mind that you have the next meal or snack to practice it all over again. It is helpful to remember, as Tribole says, that “you will not suddenly get a nutrient deficiency or gain weight from one snack, one meal, or one day of eating. It’s what you eat consistently over time that matters, progress not perfection is what counts”. This concept of being mindful during mealtimes will definitely take time to master however the pleasure evoked during the process makes it all worth it, not to mention the stress lifted from the everyday obsessions over what to eat.

Contact Caitlin@MomNTotNutrition.com for more information on how you can begin your mindful eating practice and start enjoying food today!