Opinion

HEALTH: Mindful eating: listen to your internal cues

When was the last time that you felt hungry? For many people, it’s a state that they don’t allow themselves to ever feel.

It may have been decades since the last time stomach growls and other hunger sensations were felt.

Hunger pangs can cause panic and a sense of urgency. It can cause mindless urges to grab easy to eat fast foods (that require little or no preparation) and generally, tend to be more processed and packaged (usually also loaded with fat, salt and/or sugar).

As humans have evolved, society and culture has changed and our body and minds have not kept pace with technology and the current surroundings.

As ‘cave’ men, humans would have to hunt and gather food for survival. Huddled around a fire, someone had to be brave enough to leave the safety of the tribe to hunt the big wild animal for the next meal. Nowadays, we live with an abundance of food all around us.

Due to many beliefs, food rules and varying levels of information and knowledge, the way that we eat may be quite disconnected to how our bodies want/need to be properly fueled. This disconnect can cause problems that lead to health issues over the long-term, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Listening to our body is essential, when it comes to eating for better nutrition. Eating when hungry and not just because it’s meal time, or there’s food still left on the plate means listening to internal cues instead of eating due to external cues.

An excellent exercise to try before eating next time, would be to sit down and determine on a scale of one to 10, just how hungry your body really is. Next, really sense that food. Smell, bite and chew with all of your taste buds heightened.

Does that slice of pizza taste salty, tangy, chewy, doughy, yeasty or crunchy? Does that snow pea taste sweet or bitter, is it crunchy and fresh?

How does each mouthful taste?

As you eat your meal, does the flavour and the way you sense the flavours and textures change over the meal period?

Do you trust your body, and more importantly, can your body trust your mind to give it what it needs to work properly for the long-term?

Being aware of food cravings, portion control and content of meals/snacks all help to understand what drives your eating behaviours and also provides information on how to improve lifestyle for future health and wellbeing.

Exercise, too

For some people, a planned exercise regime is required to start the schedule off on the right track and build slowly from there. For others, small incremental pieces of activity fit into the day’s schedule can be a method to be less sedentary and more active.

Park further away from the entrance to the store, take the stairs rather than the elevator/escalator. Do small amounts of pushups or leg raises, lift can goods to boost upper body abilities.

Any small improvements in activity will boost balance, flexibility, endurance and add to the increases in health benefits overtime. One study, looking at 400,000 people in Taiwan showed that just 15 minutes of daily activity assisted the individuals to reduce their risk of chronic disease by 14 per cent and increase life expectancy by three years.

With beginning any new exercise regime, more isn’t always better. The real risk of injury increases as an unfit person takes on too much, if their muscles/back are not accustomed to performing these new movements. Stretching and warming up prior to exercise is a key to success.

Check out the local recreation centre and other clubs for fitness programs designed for various levels of skill and abilities. Yoga, bootcamp, swimming, skating, Fit Beginnings, Nordic walking, aerobics, along with badminton, gymnastics, dance, plus a variety of organized sports, such as soccer, rugby, hockey, etc are available in ‘Sports’ Alberni.

Also, going outdoors to walk, bike, paddle or sail in a variety of different settings around the Alberni Valley is available for individuals looking to get some fresh air and fun adventures.

 

Sandra Gentleman is a registered dietitian who is passionate about health and wellness. She is co-owner of Canal Beach (formerly Wild West Watersports).

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