The antidote to stress about children’s and adult’s eating!
Are you confused about what is the right thing to eat? ‘It’s this! No Do Not eat this, eat that!’
Do you have a basically good diet and fitness routine but want to do more, to feel better? Or do you know things aren’t so great with you/your family?
Ever wondered why it seems a struggle to get our treasured little ones to eat their vegetables/eat anything/stop eating so much. When you do, ever had a note from school ‘please don’t include ‘x’ in Treasure’s lunch box, it’s not healthy’. How about us?
Is your child worried about their body image? Have you checked with them lately? How about you?
Children even in junior school these days worry about their weight and body image to a greater extent it seems than ever before. Do we see more clearly now that boys and men can feel such pressure just as much as girls and women?
I don’t think anyone can be unaware of concerns about rising levels of obesity and diabetes. How does that happen with all the food information that is out there? In contrast, have you ever tried to calorie-control your food or work out to lose some pesky weight and not got very far?
While we’re on control: Are we aware when we (or children) under-eat or over-eat when we’re stressed, anxious or unhappy? Have you tried to change that and struggled? Are we aware when we, or someone we know, might use extreme diet and exercise?
Do we even know what Is ‘eating properly’?
There is a ton of information out there on the internet, television and print media.
What did you think when you heard the updated advice to eat not five but ten portions of fruit and vegetables per day?
We are advised to cut sugar and the soft-drinks’ sugar tax is scheduled for 2018. You may have heard about levels of sugar in pre-made (processed) food including ‘healthy/light/low-fat’ options. Do you know that our bodies react just the same to all sugars – including ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’ sweeteners?
Are you ‘off carbs’? The traditional advice is to base our meals around carbs; while voices are mounting that this is a ‘metabolic time bomb’. Carbohydrates and starch are essentially made up of sugars, but we do need them at some level.
Are you into ‘low-fat’ or ‘good-fat’ foods? What is ‘healthy fat’?
Do we know how to ‘move more’ or get our youngsters to? Just how many diet plans are there and how many have we tried?
Let’s cut through it …
Here’s a great exercise:
Before we do anything else, grab a pen and paper (or tablet or whatever) and take ten minutes to write down everything you ate and drank yesterday and when. If you have children, this is a great exercise for them too.
Did it take some time to recall everything?
Did you eat each item when you were hungry or for some other reason, what reason
Do you remember the taste of everything that you ate?
Did you sit and eat and concentrate on the food, or were you doing other things too, what was the reason
How did you feel – at the start of the day, each time you ate, at the end of the day … and how did you feel when you woke up this morning?
Energy v Food
Who can you trust? You!! In my experience, we don’t succeed in our goals when we are following someone else’s values and advice instead of being our own Leader. So we might follow someone else’s diet plan or exercise routine and it doesn’t quite work for us, or we finish the programme and revert to some old habits. We might just dismiss all advice as rubbish or ‘what’s the point?
Advice is fabulous to give us information and show us the directions we might go in. Then we need to find our own values, what we truly believe in and build our goals and actions from there. So this post is about how we might Lead Ourselves better.
For most of us our values and goals are not to ‘eat more spinach’ but to be healthy, fit and active. We want to have the energy we need when we need it. We want the same for our families.
So let’s strip away the mountain of diet advice we can find if we take even a tiny look and start with what’s most important:
We eat food for energy – to live, grow, maintain and repair our bodies, keep warm and be active, in both body and mind.
Think for a moment if you can think of examples of: food and drink that make us feel sluggish (falling asleep after Christmas dinner) or hyperactive then crash (a diet full of sugar, caffeine and additives perhaps).
You might begin to see when you add the exercise about yesterday’s eating to the information about food as energy, mindful eating might be a really great way to help us achieve our goals.
This diagram from www.eatingmindfully.com is great:
A great place to start before you begin changing anything is to just be more mindful of your diet – and again, all of this is easily done with children and adults.
Try for the next day paying close attention to exactly what you are eating and drinking and how it affects you: exactly what it looks and smells like, the colours and shapes and textures. Think about how it tastes as you are eating it and how your body reacts. Think how you felt before, during and after eating it. Was the experience pleasant or unpleasant? Is it what you wanted? Does it agree with you?
Now notice how you feel an hour or two after eating or drinking something. Did you feel more energetic, more sluggish, experience any agitation or unpleasant feelings,? Did you feel full or were you craving more or your belly stretched?
Another great thing to notice is what prompts you to eat or drink a certain food or at a particular time. How did you feel? What was the purpose eating or drinking? Was it a regular meal-time? Were you hungry or thirsty? Is it a habit to eat or drink – especially if it’s during a particular activity like watching TV? Did you have a passing thought or sight of food/drink and react on impulse?
If you have a craving, are you able to notice it and acknowledge ‘oh, here’s my craving’? Can you ask yourself what you really want and whether it is served by that food or drink? Can you try letting go of that craving just this once, in just this moment? In this way cravings can be ‘postponed’ or even forgotten. How would that feel? Can you think of something else to do that is healthier and better serves your goals?
Ask what was the purpose of the choices we made? Was it convenient, a habit, because we didn’t plan for a healthier alternative, did we crave sugar or carbs or a particular taste? Did each choice suit our values and goals?
Go back to our first exercise and have a think about these things. Try using that exercise regularly. It’s a great conversation with youngsters to get beyond ‘What did you eat at school today? The usual’! Did your youngster not really remember, can’t tell you how it tasted, ate stuff they didn’t like or had loads of extra snacks? Those are all places to start a conversation and a starting point to maybe make some changes.
The ‘Raisin Exercise’ brings total focus to this practice. It is a great way to bring awareness of food to the family, especially if you take treasured time for just 5 minutes to sit together, perhaps at a table, and share your experiences. The exercise begins with paying minute attention to the look, smell, and texture of the raisin (or an alternative if you hate them) before anything. Notice your thoughts as you think about it putting it into your mouth and whether your mouth changes with saliva. Noticing how it feels in your mouth before even taking a bite, whether your mouth reacts at all, if you can smell anything. Taking a bite without chewing and noticing as much as possible. Chewing and noticing as much as possible. Then continue to chew and swallow and notice that too.
Change as we know is never easy as lifestyles, habits, ‘old’ beliefs (those that no longer serve us) get in the way and, well, life has a habit of throwing some curveballs. Remember to involve your youngsters in these activities. Some good strategies are:
- Keep coming back to your energy – emotional and physical – and reflect on what you have eaten and drunk in the previous 24 hours, and in the last week or month.
- Keep coming back to eating mindfully – the more you do it, the more it becomes your ‘automatic pilot’ instead of the habit of eating without focus.
- Ask yourself what is the purpose of the food/drink you are about to eat. Are you hungry, fed up, craving? Does that purpose serve your goals? How Much of the food or drink would serve your purpose? How will you know when you have eaten/drunk enough? Can you stop at that signal?
- Notice how your body and mind feel in the hours that follow what you ate or drank. Is it positive? Does it serve your goals and purpose?
- Can you pay more attention to the labels and ingredients on the food/drink you buy? A good way is to try looking at the foods already in your house. What are the main ingredients of pre-prepared food – the ones listed first? They might surprise you! Does your food have many of those ‘red’ labels for fats/sugars/carbs? Is there a pattern? You can then use this knowledge when you next shop.
- When you cook, can you pay more attention to the ingredients you put in the food? Are there healthier alternatives or recipes? Are your youngsters ever involved in cooking and making up meals?
- Be aware of your cravings and get to know them better.
- Don’t judge. However you eat and drink is how it is right now. If you want to make changes, I have given you some pointers here. If you give in to cravings, that is just how it is and it’s a learning point (you might feel ‘well, that was great!’ or ‘now I feel rubbish’ and either way you have noticed and can ask yourself about it.
I hope this helps and I hope you can string it together with my previous blogs this year, as they are designed together to help us in our progress. We have so far looked at: Authenticity, Breathing, Consciousness and Diet. You can check out all my blogs at: www.suball.co.uk under ‘News’.
Way To Go:
I said it is going to be a busy year and this blog is a little late while I have got my Finer Families Formula up and running for Families in Crisis. If you need any help with:
- A child or young person stuck in emotional or behavioural difficulties;
- Being fresh out of parenting ideas; or
- Your family is just too Stress-Full.
You can check it out here: https://thefamilycoach.co.uk
and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FinerFamiliesFormula/
There’s a FREE VIDEO for you to check out!