Over the years I’ve come across so many people with a kind of ‘love-hate’ relationship with food. They love to eat it, but they associate it with gaining weight, particularly the treat foods, and some even say they ‘gain weight just looking at food’! I’ve always loved food, but as someone who is normally reasonably slim (I won’t tell you how much I’ve gained during my pregnancy!) I often find people don’t believe me when I say I love food to the point of being maybe a little obsessed with it! Surely I must restrict myself? I can’t possibly ever pig-out or even eat cake at all!
It’s all about how you view food. I see food as fuel first and foremost, so I try to make sure that I get the right balance of the things my body needs.
But I also see food as something that should be enjoyable – I never eat things I don’t like, what’s the point?
I think that, even though people say they love food, they’re not really enjoying it anymore. So here’s my guide to really enjoying food in three simple steps:
1. Be involved in your food as much as you can
Try to cook or prepare as much of your food as you can. That way you have a better understanding of what’s going into your meals. If you just grab a takeaway or microwave a readymeal – you don’t really get to appreciate what ingredients have gone in there. When I bake cakes I’m more aware of how much of a treat they are after seeing how much fat and sugar I’ve weighed out! You can easily forget this when you’ve just bought a cake from the local shop! Make food preparation an important part of eating – think about it as a way of showing yourself you care enough to take the time to nourish yourself properly. You can also use it as an opportunity to take control of portion sizes and present the food nicely. If you’ve never cooked then look up a recipe online and just give it a go – it’s all about confidence and practice – you never know it may become a new hobby.
2. Sit up to a table to eat
Make the whole experience of eating a meal a priority. Take time out to focus on your food. Turn off distractions such as the TV or your laptop and put away your phone – just for the 20-30mins you need to concentrate on eating. This has an impact on appetite and how much food you can eat – if you notice what you’re eating you’re more likely to notice your hunger cues. Think about how much you can ‘shovel in’ while at the cinema or watching TV – we’re just not aware of the food and it’s gone before we’ve recognised how much we’ve eaten! In my opinion eating should be a social occasion, time to chat with family or friends. If you have teenage kids who all go up to their separate rooms to eat while playing computer games or watch TV – how do you know they’re eating properly? If you eat your lunch at your desk at work, are you really taking a break? Are you giving yourself time to have a decent breakfast and therefore a good start to the day? Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your meal-times.
3. Put your knife and fork down between each mouthful
Take the time to chew your food properly and savour the flavour. Pay attention to all the different textures of the food. Think about what’s in your food – the nutrients you’re benefitting from and the fuel you’re giving your body. Try to look at your food too – it helps if you’ve made the effort to present your food nicely and given yourself a colourful rainbow of fruit/veg. Avoid adding loads of salt – instead use plenty of herbs and spices to give it flavour. Before you start eating, pause to smell the food too – it all adds to the experience. I think it’s almost a shame that we usually use cutlery to eat as we’re missing out on engaging the sense of touch in the whole eating experience. If food is more flavoursome and we’ve taken time and paid attention to the different sensations, I think we are more likely to feel more satisfied sooner. When I’m talking about this with clients I challenge them to take as long as possible eating their next meal. I always refer to a client who took me up on this challenge and spent almost an hour eating her tea instead of the usual 15 minutes – she ate around a quarter less than normal! Think about the impact this would make if applied to every meal/snack!
So how long do you take to eat your main meal? I challenge you to see if you could spread it out a bit and see what a difference it makes and I’d love to hear how you get on in the comments below.