But as a parent, I’ve entered a whole new realm of mindless eating!
What do I mean by Mindless Eating?
I spend a lot of time preparing my daughter’s meals, as I prefer to make most things from scratch with fresh ingredients. I also work part-time, have regular chiropractic appointments for both me and my daughter, and I love to commit us to fun things like bush playgroup, gymnastics and swimming lessons. Even on a “quiet day” there is still piles of housework. It means I make excuses about being too busy to stop and eat slowly and mindfully myself. I spend most of my meals standing up whilst cooking hers, or on the run, or in a hurry before I have to put her down for her nap.
I’m equally as bad with drinking tea. I love chai tea (as you can read all about here!) and I make the effort of preparing a chai at least twice a day. But do I sit down and enjoy it mindfully? Nope, I drink it while getting dressed, washing my face, dressing my daughter, prepping her snacks for the day, packing the car etc. Considering chai is one of my most favourite things, I know I’d enjoy it even more if I was able to be present with it!
Why is Mindless Eating such a problem?
When we disconnect from our food and the process of paying attention as we eat it, we can easily miss our hunger signals. We may eat too fast which is not good for our digestion, and can often overeat. This practice can leave us feeling lethargic, crampy, sluggish and uncomfortable.
Chewing your food is key for optimal digestion and we should aim to chew each mouthful 25 times or more. Crazy I know! I just pretended to chew 25 times and it took ages. And that’s just for one mouthful!
How to incorporate Mindful Eating as a busy Mum?
No eating in the kitchen rule
So this is a great rule theoretically but I find this really hard to put into practice, especially when I’m in a hurry. It’s just so easy to grab a handful of nuts and shove in your mouth before running out the door to playgroup. So for me this is a work-in-progress.
Share a meal
I’m a big believer in only eating when we are hungry, rather than for emotional reasons, boredom or habit. However, this can be hard as a mum. Often we have to grab a meal break when we can and don’t have the opportunity to wait until we are a hungry. For my family, it means we have dinner between 5.30pm – 6.00pm, as I’d rather eat as a family before my daughter’s bed time routine than later at night when I’m hangry or too tired to cook something nutritious.
So schedule in meal times, even snack times, and share them with your kids. Choose to prepare meals and snacks that you can all enjoy, and sit down at the table together. As a toddler, my daughter only lasts 10 minutes in the highchair and would prefer to eat all her food on the go. However, I read her a book while we both casually enjoy our snacks and lunch together. Although I’m not sitting there concentrating on every mouthful of food as you would in a standard mindful eating practice, at least I’m sitting down, not hurrying, and eating slowly. Once she’s a bit older I hope to actually have a conversation with her while we eat to continue to slow down the process.
Book in a mindful meal
If you have the opportunity to have your partner or family member mind your child for an evening, spend that evening meal eating in complete silence. Start by being really present as you prepare your meal, and take every opportunity to smell your food as you cook it. Focus on every mouthful, chewing slowly and frequently before swallowing.
The more often you practice this, the easier it will turn into a habit. It’s hard with kids I know, but take every opportunity for a mindful meal when available to you.
Be curious about your emotions in the kitchen
Stress and overwhelm are a big trigger for me. When I’m feeling out of my depth, I turn to food. Since overhauling my health and diet, I really only buy nourishing “real” foods, but some of my unhealthy habits are still hard to kick. So when I’m stressed and overwhelmed I can blink and realise I’ve just devoured an entire punnet of cherry tomatoes, or way too many nuts, or blueberries. It’s not really about the food I choose, but the habit of not being present to notice what I’m tasting and eating.
So ask yourself, how am I feeling before stepping into the kitchen. If you’re hungry and stressed, try to serve out a portion of nuts or whatever into a container, get out of the kitchen and eat at the table. If you aren’t feeling hungry, can you try going to a walk, playing your child, patting your dog or even sniffing some essential oils?
If stress is a problem for you, read here about my favourite suggestions for managing stress.