Saturday, April 09, 2011

Eating and losing mindfully, part 2

Following on from my previous post on mindful eating, I wanted to add a few personal notes relating to my new eating principles.

1. When You Are Hungry, Eat
In the beginning, it was hard for me to identify my hunger cues because I've always tended to eat when I want to or when it's "time for lunch". Greed has been my signal to eat for as long as I can remember as I come from a family of foodies and I married a foodie too. Food forms the heart of how I spend my leisure time and how I socialise.

So now I've had to re-connect to what it means to be physically hungry. I try my very best now not to eat until my stomach is growling or my stomach feels "hollow". In this way, I've found that the snacking has stopped and I am eating at regular intervals of breakfast, lunch and dinner.

2. Eat What You Want, Not What You Think You Should
If I want to eat chocolate then I'll eat it; if I prefer an orange then I'll have that; if I want a creamy, full-fat yoghurt then that's what I have; if I want mayo with my steak then hurrah! Seriously, no low- and non-fat foods have passed my lips since I started eating more mindfully because...

3. Eat Consciously And Enjoy Every Mouthful
... have you tried eating non-fat yoghurt really, really slowly? It tastes vile. Who wants to eat that? Full-fat tastes delicious and you realise that when you eat slowly. Moreover, eating slowly enables your brain to catch up with your stomach: it takes around 20 minutes for the brain to register that the stomach is physically full so eating slowly and stopping to "check in" with your stomach while eating enables you to recognise when you are full.

Life is busy, though, so if I have to eat on the run then I simply make it something small but filling, for example half a pre-packaged sandwich (not the full two slices and preferably with protein) or a small cereal bar (again, preferably with a high protein percentage) - I can always eat later if/when hunger kicks in.

4. When You Think You Are Full, Stop Eating
In fact, it's better not to stop eating when you are full. I stop when my stomach feels satisfied. One piece of 70% dark chocolate satisfies me so much more than an entire Snickers bar when I eat it slowly and savour it. In the middle of a meal I sit back and if my stomach feels satisfied then it's time to stop eating. If I'm (physically) hungry later I can always eat more - I mean, food is not a scarce commodity here - it's always available.

Paul McKenna and other mindful eating proponents say it's okay to leave food on your plate. I rarely do this now because I know the quantity of food that satiates me and surprisingly that quantity is the size of my fist (which is also the size of the stomach). If anything is left on the plate or saucepan then it goes into the next day's lunch or is frozen for another day.

I serve myself less now too, knowing that I can get up and serve myself more if I need to. Mr Planet has also been trained to put less on my plate. If we're at a restaurant then I actually push half of my meal to one side of the dish and only tuck into that half if I'm still hungry or else I share a plate with Mr Planet or Little Planet (or I simply waste it - it's not the end of the world!). I have much more self-discipline around food than I previously gave myself credit for.

A typical day's eating for me could be this:
Breakfast @8.30am: Always protein-based as protein fills you up, so a slice of wholemeal toast with slice of ham and cheese plus half a banana or an apple. On the weekend it's always bacon and eggs or eggs on toast plus fruit

@1-2pm: Usually leftovers from previous night's dinner and portion-controlled to the size of my fist, so yesterday I ate risotto with borlotti beans and pancetta with Parmesan shavings followed by a full-fat yoghurt

@5pm: If I'm physically hungry then I'll have some fruit or oatcakes, but sometimes it's crisps that I crave so I'll have crisps but I won't eat them out the packet. Instead I'll put a few on a plate, say five, and eat them slowly and only if I physically need more will I eat more (but I have to go into the kitchen for them)

@8.30-9pm (as Mr Planet works long hours): Usually it's a curry and rice or stew and loads of vegetables or salad. Last night we had homemade tonkatsu with Bulldog sauce, shredded cabbage and brown Japanese rice. My portion of pork was less than the size of my fist and my rice was half a cup cooked. Mr Planet popped my leftover tonkatsu into a sandwich for his lunch today :-)

Dessert: Bowl of berries with small scoop full-fat Cookies & Cream ice cream.

This morning, I've not yet had breakfast as I'm not hungry.

Many people eat not as a response to physical hunger but to emotional hunger. Boredom is my emotional trigger so I am careful to recognise this. If I'm reaching for food but am not actually hungry for it then I take a moment to step back and acknowledge the feeling that's actually feeding the need for food. In my case, I have to feed boredom not with food but with activity. I also tend to snack whilst reading a book or the newspaper or whilst surfing the Internet. Now I make that snack a handful of grapes, a mug of hot chocolate or a mug of coffee. Or, nothing at all. It takes a few weeks to train yourself in this way, but it works.

This is not a faddy diet. This is the normal, natural way of eating. My toddler eats like this and I'm no longer forcing encouraging her to finish up her meals.


Bombay Beauty said...

yes, reestablishing the connection between food and hunger seems so sensible. it is breaking habit of eating just for pleasure (when not hungry) that is harder. xo bb

Priyanka said...

I've read these posts at the perfect time. I've started my weight loss program again, and need all the guidance I can get. I need to lose 15 lbs, good to know that you've already lost 17 with this diet(non-diet :)).

Planethalder said...

Good luck, both of you. I'm still losing weight. Such an easy diet once you get used to focusing only on physical hunger.

Anonymous said...

I am linking this post on my blog, I hope you don't mind. It really worked for me this past week. :)

Planethalder said...

So glad it's working for you. It's such a sensible approach to eating and it doesn't feel like a diet at all (because it's not). Good luck!

LikeItSpicy said...

The post that made me delurk. It is truly inspirational, and its beauty lies in its simplicity. I have tried to practice this since I read it, and it is harder to retrain myself than I imagined.

And you have a wonderful blog!

Planethalder said...

Thanks Spicy. Keep going - it took me a few weeks before it all clicked into place and now, 12 weeks on, it really feels like a natural way of eating to me and I don't have to think about it.

And I'm still losing.