How to Master Mindful Eating
All too familiar with emotional or stress eating? We sat down food & health coach Nadine Hüttenrauch who hosted last week’s nutrition workshop “Are you hungry or just stressed?” Keep reading to learn more about nutrition, mindful eating, and what a health coach eats in a day.
What exactly is mindful eating?
I would like to use a quote by François de La Rochefoucauld here: “To eat is a necessity, to enjoy is an art”. Mindful eating for me is the art to truly enjoy food by being right in the moment of eating. This includes not only what we eat (the food) but also the how we eat (eating behaviour) and the why we eat (reasons to eat). Given that, mindful eating allows and enables various things.
Amongst those, one thing is, that you will eat with all your senses, which allows for a very satisfying and truly nourishing experience - which actually has become something very sacred in this fast-paced world. Also, you will pay more attention to your bodily sensations including hunger and satiety. This allows you to eat when you are truly hungry - something that does not necessarily come natural anymore, given emotional or stress eating for example. As mindful eating also includes chewing properly, it enables your body to digest food more easily and effectively. Last but not least, mindful eating helps you find the nutrition that is right for you. Since every human being is unique including the metabolism, digestion, genes etc. each one of us also has her or his individually suiting healthy way of eating. Finding that is key for a long-term healthy diet.
What are some simple steps to eat more mindfully?
Mindful eating means that when you eat, you eat. Nowadays, eating is often something that is done besides something else - checking the phone, working, watching TV, and so on. In order to get back to only eating when you are eating, a first simple step is to put distraction aside. Don’t put your phone next to your plate, turn off the TV, sit on a proper table and not your desk.
Another step is to chew properly. You might want to start counting. Depending on how fast you eat, you could start with chewing 15 times per bite, then increase to 20, then 30 and so on. Put down the cutlery from time to time while eating. That way you will include natural pauses, really finish a bite and slow down.
Furthermore, start paying attention to all your senses while eating. Ask yourself: How does the food in front of you look like? How does it smell? How does it taste? What single ingredients can you taste? Does the food have any sound, for example while chewing it? How does its texture feel like in your mouth? How does the texture change while chewing? You might start by paying attention to a single sense one by one.
What does a balanced diet mean to you?
A balanced diet to me means two main things. One is to bring diversity into your diet by eating different types of food, different colours and so on. That way you ensure to get all those different kinds of nutrients. My number one tip here, is to eat seasonally. That way you automatically eat different kinds of food.
On the other hand, a balanced diet, for me, includes all that you like into your diet. Meaning that your diet not only includes all those healthy and nutritious foods, but also all that makes you happy. Maybe your grandma’s cake, the spaghetti that you already used to love as a child or the pizza enjoyed in a group of friends. To me, this is not cheating. This is part of a healthy, balanced diet just as much as all those veggies, whole grains and fruits and nuts are.
What do you typically eat in a day?
Normally I start of with a nutritious breakfast. For me that is a “muesli bowl” with either overnight oats, a bircher muesli including quark and flaxseed oil or porridge in the cold months. I add different toppings, like nuts, seeds, cocoa nibs and seasonal fruits. For lunch I have something light like a soup, as vegetable mix, salad or a curry. After lunch I have a coffee and something sweet, like an energy ball. And for dinner I like a mix of whole grains, like brown rice, quinoa, spelt etc., combined with cooked or baked vegetables. On top, I add fresh herbs, seeds and feta cheese - I love to put feta cheese on nearly anything.
Are there any foods you recommend leaving out?
Indeed, those foods that you cannot digest well. Those, that cause bloating or other digestion problems. Those that cause tiredness or spots. This is something individual and as I said earlier, a healthy diet is individual and unique in the end.
Of course, overall I rather recommend to eat as much food, that is natural, whole, nutritious and fresh, as possible and reduce processed, and low-quality food as much as you can.
What do you recommend eating before or after a workout?
It depends a little bit on the workout. But in general, I recommend filling up the energy level before a workout by eating natural simple carbohydrates. Those are found in dates, bananas or other (dried) fruits for example. After a workout it is again recommendable to first fuel your body with energy through a small portion of natural simple carbs. These are also found in coconut water for example, which also delivers valuable minerals and hydrates your body. Overall drinking enough still water around your workout is also key. A little later after the workout a good source of protein helps your body recover.
By the way, I have a great book recommendation that covers working out and eating and that has been written by the vegan professional Iron Man Triathlete Brendan Brazier: The Thrive Diet.
How does diet affect fitness performance?
When you put poor-quality or the wrong fuel in a sports car, after some time the engine will break down or at least not function properly anymore. It is similar with food, our body and the fitness level. If you fuel your body (your engine) with poor-quality food containing few nutrients, you will probably feel less energised over time and your fitness level might diminish. On the other hand, if you fuel your body with a healthy diet including loads of different nutrients, your body is able to function properly including the metabolism and regenerating processes. This also allows for a better fitness performance of course.
So, in a nutshell:
Eat with all your senses
Focus on your food while you eat
Chew. Really, chew!
Eat mostly natural, whole, fresh, unprocessed food
Also eat foods that make you happy!
Don’t eat foods that you don’t digest well
Natural simple carbs are great to get energy before a workout
Protein is essential after a workout to help your body recover
Want to know more? Send an email to food & health coach Nadine at firstname.lastname@example.org
Interview by Avelina de Ment