A child says he is full halfway through his meal. What do the parents respond?
"Don't you know there are so many poor starving kids in Africa....finish your meal". Heck, my mother didn't even need to cite the African example…there were enough starving kids down the road in Mumbai, where I grew up. And because my kids haven’t been to Africa….I use the Mumbai example as well.
Growing up, we always had guests over for the “Grand Sunday Lunch” (followed by the mandatory afternoon nap) or we were invited to someone’s home (In which case we couldn't enjoy the desired nap…although we have been known to nod off occasionally post-lunch whilst chatting!).God forbid we refused the 3rd serving of the delicious “curry and butter naan” or the “gulab jamuns", our host would tell us with big smiles that she would be displeased if we did not take “Just One More”. And a few minutes later, with an even bigger smile & the quintessential Indian head nod…. “Ok, one last one, now don’t refuse”.
What do both the scenarios have in common? Overeating!
Yes it’s done out of love, warmth, hospitality and generosity, and my childhood is filled with happy memories of “Just One More”….But is it actually harming us?
The answer is categorically YES.
You only have to Google the terms ghrelin, leptin, neurotransmitters and cholecystokinin to understand why.
But you might nod off....
Basically, our bodies have a feedback mechanism, where they send a subtle hormonal & neurological signal to the brain that we have eaten enough. Over eating can lead to heart disease, diabetes, inflammation, acid reflux, digestive issues and a host of other problems, which contribute to poor health and thus a compromised lifestyle.
Are we even hungry? Or maybe just dehydrated? Or bored!
The food in the restaurant maybe expensive…but it does not mean you have to finish it just to “get your money’s worth” or because it is there in front of you. In fact, I challenge you to leave a little bit behind on your plate the next time you eat out.
Unless you go to a fine-dining restaurant. I’d definitely get my money’s worth there!!
And I would order two mains. Why do they serve so little food??
Allowing your child to leave the table when she has signalled that she has eaten enough will work in your child's favour by avoiding food aversions and overeating into adulthood. Definitely stop the maid from running behind them & feeding them! And neither would be allowed in a fine dining restaurant. Double bonus!
Research suggests it takes about 20 minutes after you start eating, for the message to STOP eating, to form and reach your brain. Eat slowly. Be mindful. Listen to your body. Learn to recognize these signals.
During my Yoga Teacher Training in Bali (Yes, I know, Yoga is for lazy people), we would meditate daily followed by a silent breakfast as we sat amongst nature with our thoughts. (I chose the table and chair…. I didn't want to get my clothes muddy). It was suggested we put our fork down after every bite, and pick it up ONLY after we had finished swallowing the food currently in our mouth.
Easier said than done!
I did not realize that my usual breakfast consisted of me telling my kids to eat quickly so they wouldn't be late for school, checking my emails, updating my social media, tying my shoes, chewing quickly whilst I had the next spoonful ready in hand! When I used to work as an architect in a previous life, I'd see so many people eat at their office desks, hunched over, distracted by their computer screens instead of enjoying their meal.
The experience of being mindful, of taking a moment to appreciate and expressing gratitude for the plate in front of me, then enjoying each bite individually, slowing down, enjoying the colour, flavour and different combinations of foods, it was not surprising that I started to recognize the subtle feedback mechanisms of satiety – knowing when my stomach was full, leaving me light and energetic instead of sleepy and bloated!
You don’t need to run off to Bali to start recognizing your subtle feedback mechanism, just make a commitment to be more mindful from today. Or go fine dining. But don’t order that 2nd main....
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