Mind over matter
Understanding the nuances of the food we eat and how we eat it impacts the end results it has on our body. DJ-turned-restaurateur Gurmeet Arora explains how mindful eating is not just a philoso-phy – It’s a practice that can help us make healthier life choices and lead better lives
Most of us often don’t recall everything we have eaten in our last meal. Not just that even while having a meal, most of the time, we do not enjoy the complete process of consuming it. According to a study conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, an international consortium, the average Indian spends only one hour and 27 minutes a day on eating, whereas countries like France spend more than 2 hours on meals per day on an average, proving that Indians rush through their food. Most of us multi-task while eating. Because we’re working, driving, reading, watching television, or fiddling with an electronic device, we’re not fully aware of what we’re eating. This mindless eating — a lack of awareness of the food we’re consuming — slows down the body’s metabolism, adds to obesity and leads to severe health issues.
What is mindful eating
Mindful eating can be described as maintaining an in-the-moment awareness of the food being consumed. The way we treat our food determines how it will impact us. While the ideal mindful-eating food choices are focussed on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and vegetable oils, one can be mindful about eating unhealthy food as well. By truly paying attention to the food being eaten and how it’s affecting the body may reduce the urge to indulge in unhealthy food items.
How it helps
Our lifestyle and the food we eat are very closely related. Our day-to-day routines need to change first if we are to make any dietary changes. What we expend and intake has to be considered when making a change in our eating habits. One aspect which has changed for the better is the switch to healthier cooking oils to cut down on the trans-fats that we intake (which are harder to digest). Across a rapidly increasing number of kitchens, cooking is now done using lighter oils like Olive and Canola.Experts say not only can mindful eating improve one’s physical well-being and help in maintaining a healthy weight, it can also show a marked improvement in one’s mental well-being.
When it comes to traditional food and ancestral practices, we have been ‘eating from the plate’ rather than ‘for the scale’. A simple explanation of this concept is that the plate of food that we eat, even when it may contain dramatically different preparations, has always been constructed keeping balance in mind. The mix of dishes in a traditional Indian thali can vary across regions but the balance remains intact, be it Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Assam or Kerala. Our flavours are widespread and so is our balanced diet. This concept has now made its way to contemporary kitchens as well. The idea of watching the plate and not the scale is based on understanding what our body requires.Mindful eating helps you to make healthier food choices. Only if one is aware and conscious about the ingredients used, the quantity and the time of the meal, will they understand why it produces the desired effects when ingested.
How to practice it
Mindfulness takes time to be ingrained as an everyday routine. But many people find that by eating this way, even for just a few meals a week, you can become more attuned to your body. By being attentive to even one meal a day, you can change your dietary habits for the better and enjoy the improved mental and physical well-being that comes with a healthier diet.But mindfulness is also about the greater good of mankind. In today’s age, as we enjoy the luxury of copious food, wastage has become unavoidable. From large-scale cultivation, to wasting energy in transporting food items across longer distances and storing them for longer periods of time to large meal portions, food is wasted all around us. Mindfulness of how food is grown, transported, cooked and served can reduce this wastage as well. Mindfulness teaches us to be respectful of food.I can only think of a modus operandi our ancestors used. It was an adaptation to simplicity. Choose simpler foods, easier to digest and lighter to feel. This will empower us to gain control over our cravings and the food choices we make. Once this control is achieved, it will be the beginning of our mindful eating habits.
Adapting to the times
The idea is to bring back simplicity. Today’s fitness has become complicated, just like our food. This has to do with our urgency of losing weight, a desperation to become slim by all means. Lifestyle changes will need to be incorporated to focus on achieving a healthier, more aware and holistic routine, an eco-system of our own that caters to the needs of our mind, body and soul, and for the benefit of ourselves and society; one that does not endorse over-indulgence. A system that is robust, dependable and durable.
Start by taking a few deep breaths before eating a meal or snack to think about what you’re about to put into your body. Recognise when your body is hungry. Don’t wait till you are ravenous. Contemplate if you are eating in response to hunger signals or in response to an emotional signal? Similarly, are you eating food that is nutritionally healthy or just emotionally comforting? Even if you have to eat at your work desk, you can take a few moments to focus all your attention on your food, rather than multitasking. Think of mindful eating like exercise: every little bit counts. The more you can do to slow down, focus solely on the process of eating, and listen to your body, the greater satisfaction you’ll experience from your food and the greater control you’ll have over your diet and nutrition habits.