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Eating with purpose

Have you ever been unable to remember what or when you ate last? It may well be that you were eating mindlessly. In today’s fast-paced, ‘always-on’ world, such behaviour is not uncommon.

As is the case with most things in life, it’s important to try and be mindful when eating. Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment. Mindfulness promotes balance, choice, wisdom and acceptance of what is. Mindful eating works according to the same principle. I.e. when eating you should try and be present and pay attention to what you are consuming.


lady with chalkboard background

There are several reasons why you should eat mindfully, the most prominent of these is that many people have an unhealthy relationship with food caused in part by a diet-obsessed society. Eating mindlessly can also lead to habits such as eating too much, too fast; eating even though you’re not really hungry; eating too little or consistently; or eating food that has little nutrient value; all of which can lead to health problems such as obesity, diabetes, skin problems and heart disease.

Exercise is an important part of the physical equation. Although you may view exercise as a chore, it’s important to exercise for at least 20 minutes three times a week. If you find it difficult to exercise on your own, consider joining a walking or cycling group or just go dancing. The important thing is to get moving.

Family Using Digital Devices At Breakfast Table

Mindless eating usually occurs while on the run, when you choose to eat in front of the TV or at your desk while at work. In order to eat more mindfully, it’s important to try and identify such scenarios and change them. For instance, try and plan your time better so that you don’t end up eating while on the run. In the same vein, turn off the TV at night and make the effort to eat at the dinner table with your family. In terms of work, pack your lunch the day before and take the time to have your meal breaks. According to studies, those who eat at their desks tend to eat too quickly and mindlessly. In other words, you’re going through the motions but you’re not really aware of the fact that you’re eating. Taking a break away from your desk is also good for your mind and can boost your productivity levels.

man eating pizza

Understanding your energy needs and the energy provided by food is another step towards eating mindfully. According to the South African Food Based Dietary Guidelines, the average adult man’s energy intake should not exceed 10 500 kilojoules per day while the average adult woman should consume no more than 8 500 kilojoules. To take control of your daily energy intake you need to be able to determine how much energy and other nutrients your food and drink choice contains, by reading the label and GDAs – if made available on the product packaging.

It’s also important to try and eat a good mix of foods from all food groups in moderation. Examples of food to consider from the various food groups include:

  • Starch: Fortified maize, potato, mielies, samp, rice, brown bread
  • Vegetables and fruits: Pumpkin, carrots, spinach, mango, peaches, bananas
  • Meat, fish and other proteins: Soya mince, beans, white fish, eggs, liver, kidneys
  • Dairy: Milk, maas, yoghurt, cheese
  • Fat: Sunflower oil, margarine, butter, peanut butter, avocado

brain fruit and vegetables

You can also foster mindfulness by asking, “Am I hungry?” or “Do I feel hungry because I’m thirsty?”, whenever you feel the urge to eat. Most often the latter is a more prominent reason. This should lead you to examine why, when, what, how much you eat and how you invest the energy gained from the food you’ve consumed. By doing so, you can begin to honestly examine your true state and identify eating triggers. You may well discover that you aren’t really hungry and that your urge to eat is triggered by boredom or stress or the fact that someone else is eating something tasty. You can then begin to adopt healthier, more mindful eating habits.

In a nutshell, eating mindfully is a powerful tool for developing a healthier, happier relationship with food and ultimately a happier, more balanced lifestyle.

Content provided by Naazneen Khan, Nutrition, Health and Wellness Manager at Nestlé South Africa
Click here to view her bio

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