Let’s face it – most of us finish our ‘meals’ (sometimes loosely defined as fast-food or snack packs) in the span of 5-15 minutes…whether we are in the car, at the computer, or in front of the television. Meal-time is seen as a cause for whining or suffering, both with meal preparation and with actually taking the time to do it the slower, more mindful way. “Ain’t nobody got time for that,” you might say. And so it continues, 3 meals a day (or more), down the hatch and often in such quantities as to cause discomfort about 20 minutes later when we realize we ate too much. Rarely do we realize we are often also eating out of stress and emotions we don’t want to deal with.
Then guess what? Your children, who are always observing and learning from you, start picking up the same habits.
Mindfulness starts now. Here’s how to get started:
1. Eat your meals together – not only will this help create and maintain and cohesive family life but it gets you and the children away from the phones, computer, and television while you eat. Mindfulness means bringing attention to the sight, textures, and taste of food as well as thinking of how you feel while you are eating.
2. Check in with yourself & your child before you serve a meal. Ask about his/her hunger level on a scale of 0 (not hungry at all) to 5 (might eat everything that’s not nailed down). Let your child serve him/herself how much food needed to balance out. This will teach children to connect with their bodies and associate serving sizes with satiety levels.
3. Little actions can reduce temptation to over-eat. Serving meals in the kitchen, rather than keeping bowls and platters of food on the table, can help prevent over-eating. Try not to keep many leftovers as that can be a temptation for distracted eating later on in the day. Mindfulness techniques, over time, will help you and your children establish emotional hunger and true hunger. Children may also discover food intolerances and allergies by becoming more aware of how food makes them feel. You can do the same.
4. Bust the food police. Children have to learn, for themselves, how much food makes him/her full. It can be difficult not to try to control, especially when trying to ‘help’ the child stay thin or healthy. Often, when mealtimes and amounts are controlled, the child may resort to sneaking food. Establish some food-free time with your child to see how he/she feels and what is needed.
5. Ask yourself some important questions. Do you only eat healthy when trying to lose weight? Do you make comments about your body that your children hear? Do you feel ashamed when you choose certain foods or eat too much? Tackle these problems honestly by yourself or with a support person so you can prevent passing on these issues to your children.
We all just want to be comfortable in our own skin. Be compassionate towards yourself with the quality and quantity of foods you eat, as well as the motivation behind eating.