Picture this, it’s 9.30pm and after a seemingly endless day of nappy changes and generally just keeping your kids alive (‘Pass mummy the meat cleaver, darling!) the little monsters are finally asleep. You head to the fridge, break off a chunk of cheese, tip the remaining contents of the Merlot into the nearest glass and put your feet up to enjoy Netflix.
Or you’ve returned from a overtime at the office with a boss who makes the Devil Wears Prada’s Miranda look like the Tinkerbell. Before you can say ‘damn bitch‘ the milk chocolate wrappers are empty.
Mindful eating is another.
Studies in the US have shown that eating mindfully, choosing and savouring food away from the distractions of computers and televisions, can help people lose weight. Equally, Stephanie Meyers, a dietician at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, uses mindfulness techniques with her cancer patients, and has found that it helps them with their symptoms and healing process.
Yes, there are a zillion diets out there that will promise you Gigi’s body within weeks, but we all know the harsh truth. If we want to lose weight, shape up or improve our skin, we have to be more mindful of what we put in our bellies.
But is mindful eating just another fad diet to toss aside faster than that kale smoothie you were meant to drink for breakfast? Or is it a lifestyle approach that can really offer lasting change for the better?
I chatted to psychologist and mindful eating life coach Stefania Abovic. Former model Stefania is a mother of three based in Santiago, Chile and has nearly ten years experience in the field.
How would you define mindful eating?
Mindful eating is a way of bringing attention to the present moment, and the moment when we eat. It’s a path to a more conscious life, because even though mindful eating is about our relationship with food, we’re actually working to improve our lives in general. It’s about a life in balance.
Mindful eating offers the tools and means to enjoy food, leave behind guilty feelings, and to choose healthier options that really nourish the body. It teaches you to recognise and understand for yourself the difference between real and emotional hunger.
Tell me about your own personal journey with mindful eating.
As I started to apply mindful eating to my own life, it really helped. Today, over all, I feel calmer, more connected, happier.
Why do you think people eat an unbalanced diet? Or while distracted?
Quite simply, no one ever taught us how to do otherwise. Instead of slowing down and really using our senses to experience food, we have lunch in our office in five minutes, we eat more than we need. We’re on constant autopilot mode, with little awareness of our emotions, and physical sensations. Connecting with our stomachs and senses can help us to become more conscious of our decisions.
What are the main goals your clients are seeking through mindful eating coaching?
As a former model and a mother what pressures do you think women face today in regards to mindful eating?
For over ten years I worked as a model. I think there’s a lot of pressure and we set ourselves unrealistic standards. And that is just not good. Mindful eating embraces the concept of love and compassion, for oneself and for others. It’s not about being self indulgent, but actually accepting oneself and embracing one’s own body.
I also believe the main challenge for woman and moms with regards to mindful eating is stress, living so fast and being on ‘auto pilot’.
Any tips for women facing these challenges and making changes for the long term?
1. Satisfy your visual hunger: make sure your plate looks attractive visually. Eating from a Tupperware is just not the same. And when presentation is not correct we usually eat more.
2. If hungry, try drinking a glass of water first. Many times we confuse hunger with thirst. And we eat without feeling good because what our body needed wasn’t food, just liquid.
3. Over the course of a week identify the key triggers that lead you to the kitchen or picking at food. Identifying this gives you yourself the power to choose.
5. Meditate daily. Even for five minutes. Guided meditation is the base for a mindful life. It helps you to find a place of calm and tranquility. It makes us aware, and it is through this awareness that we learn how to eat.
It can be hard for mothers and professional women to find the time to eat healthily. Some expatriates complain that they just can’t find the healthy ingredients that they’re used to back home. Some find it hard to make healthy foods for all the family, including fussy children. To what extent do you think this is the problem?
Speaking for Chile, I think we have a lot of natural and healthy products. Maybe not all the same as in other countries, but here you can find delicious fruits and vegetables, dried fruits and so forth. There are a lot of health stores such as Aldea Nativa, Dela Natura, Planta Maestra etc.
But for sure, the issue is not only WHAT we eat, but HOW we eat.
To what extent do you think people can change their lifestyles for the long term through mindful eating?
There is no formula or unique answer to this. There are some who grow so much more conscious that they feel much greater benefits in their wider wellbeing. While others learn to adopt a few simple changes and stick with that. I think there is always a positive path, but the life changing experience is unique to the individual. And it really depends on the level of commitment during the programme and afterwards.
Stefania’s mindful eating programme is an eight week course available in Spanish or English with classes held once per week in groups of a maximum of six people, held in the Vitacura district. The course is not designed for adolescents or those with anorexia nervosa eating disorders. Participation is only confirmed after detailed telephone consultations with Stefania beforehand. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: This post is meant as a general introductory guide to mindful eating. While I plan to try this specific programme, I cannot personally vouch for it until I have completed the course. This post was not sponsored, nor was I gifted any goods or services in relation to it.