Eat with your mind

Published: Jul 12, 2011, 08:08 IST | Priyanjali Ghose

If you can't remember what you ate for lunch yesterday, chances are that you were not eating 'mindfully'. A recent study reveals that avoiding distractions during mealtime and focusing on your food can actually help you lose weight in the long-term. Active! gets you details on 'lunch memory', plus expert advice on how to create your own and eat better

If you can't remember what you ate for lunch yesterday, chances are that you were not eating 'mindfully'. A recent study reveals that avoiding distractions during mealtime and focusing on your food can actually help you lose weight in the long-term. Active! gets you details on 'lunch memory', plus expert advice on how to create your own and eat better

If lunch means sitting slouched in front of the computer, while quickly swallowing a few mouthfuls of a sandwich or a fruit, you could be piling on the pounds without knowing it. According to a recent study, not focusing on your food can result in overeating later in the day, leading to weight gain.

The study, which was conducted by the School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, found that concentrating on your meal can actually help keep off the pounds by reducing the possibility of unhealthy snacking later in the day. The study revealed, "eating lunch mindfully, in contrast to eating with distractions or no particular focus, reduces later snack intake"

Lunch memory
Bharat Thakur, founder of Artistic Yoga, traces the concept of eating mindfully to ancient times. According to him, the customary offering to god before a meal was the attempt to bring the focus on the food, and to create awareness while eating.

Psychiatrist Shefali Batra terms lunch memory as a cognitive and emotive conscious awareness of one's lunch.

"One creates it just as any other memory. We remember things that are important to us," she says. She adds that diet-conscious people have better cognisance of food as they consume regular meal quantities at stipulated times, while those who do not care when eating have no recollection of what and when
they eat.

Experts assure that creating a lunch memory not only aids weight loss, but also helps one enjoy and savour the pleasurable experience of eating.

Train your mind
Dr Batra believes that every mind can be trained for any and everything but the time required may vary.

Conditioning of the brain is a key way to build lunch memory. "In certain Indian cuisines it is customary to have dessert at the end of the meal, which is how the brain gets conditioned to expect a sweet at the end of the meal. It is not a basic requirement. In the same way, over time, the brain can get used to different foods as well as quantities of food; that's how conditioning takes place."

Attention, according to Dr Batra, is the first step towards creating a memory. Also, mindfulness enables conscious awareness of the mind-body co-ordination. "These two aspects allow for disciplined living in every dimension: likewise in eating too. Food has emotional connections. Skipping lunch or having a half-lunch leaves the body, as well as the mind dissatisfied. This is compensated for by bingeing at a later hour," explains Batra.
She advises setting aside a fixed time for lunch, and avoiding television or chit-chatting during that time. She also urges eating healthy and being "happy" while eating, as it aids digestion.

Yoga has a role to play
According to Thakur, yoga and meditation play key roles in creating 'lunch memory'. He defines yoga as a powerful practice that pushes awareness into every cell and thus creates mindfulness. "Pranayam or breathing techniques, practiced over a period of time bring about a deep, abiding mindfulness. The breath and mind are deeply connected. If you work on the breath, the mind is affected. The modifications of the mind, which lead to pain (past and future) are removed by yoga. What remains is mindfulness."

How you eat
Wellness specialist Namita Jain believes that how one eats is crucial to weight loss. "When you don't concentrate on your food, chances of eating fast and not chewing your food are high, so you tend to overeat. 
Also, if you are constantly distracted when you eat, you may not remember what you've eaten, and so consume large quantities of food. Eat slowly, enjoy your food, make healthy and light food choices and fill your plate with the quantity right for you," she advises.

Namita recommends eating smaller meals at regular three-hour intervals, as this helps to fuel the body and makes it easier to avoid feelings of 'out-of-control' hunger.

"The body has an internal clock and the metabolism is regulated by regular cycles. Learn to respect these cycles. Your body needs only a few calories at a time. Large meals overload the body's digestive system, with excess calories being stored as fat."

Dr Nandita Shah, founder of Sharan, an organisation that conducts workshops on how to lose weight, and prevent, as well as reverse disease by eating naturally, seconds that. "If the right food is eaten, then there is no problem. In fact, it can keep a person off thinking about food all the time," shares Dr Shah.

Alternative food lifestyle
Fibre-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals, sprouts and low-fat dairy products, all help keep hunger pangs at bay.

Adopting an alternative food lifestyle also helps, according to Dr Shah, who explains that it involves eating according to what nature has designed for us, rather than what we decide and want to eat. This is based on a plant-based diet that excludes meat, fish chicken, eggs and dairy products. "A plant-based diet is high in nutrients and fibre," says Dr Shah, adding, "On such a diet you can eat as much as you wish, you will lose any excess weight over a period of time, and you will reverse or prevent diseases like heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and cancer."

Attention to food enriches food memory: Study
The School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, conducted a study with 29 female undergraduates, who ate a fixed lunch. They were divided into the Food Focus group, Food Thoughts Control Group and Neutral Control Group. The first group focused on the sensory characteristics of the food, while the second group read a newspaper article at lunch. The neutral group ate without any secondary task.

Later that evening, it was found that the girls from the Food Focus group ate fewer cookies than the other two groups. The group also recorded lower appetite before the snack and higher vividness of lunch memory. The study suggests that attention on food enriches meal memory and reduces chances of later intake of snacks.

Celeb food secrets

Breakfast like a king, believes Ashmit Patel
Ashmit likes to start his day with coconut water and his version of green tea (steeped in a ginger, lemon and lemon grass brew). If he is not heading for an early-morning gym session, he tucks into a fruit platter piled with slices of kiwi, peach and pear. This is followed by oatmeal porridge, and sometimes an egg white omelette. For lunch, Ashmit prefers a simple salad.

Celeb tip: Eat right, eat clean
Also exercise regularly and set short-term weight-loss goals to help stay on track. Avoid reading papers or watching television while eating, and concentrate on the food.

Jason Statham: Mind over matter
Jason Statham believes that it isn't being deprived of food that makes it worse, but the thought of being deprived. The action star maintains a good and bad food percentage that allows room for the occasional

Celeb tip: Restrict your 'good food' intake to 90 per cent; eat carbohydrates only till lunch time
The remaining ten per cent could even include chocolate. Eating carbohydrates only till lunchtime will ensure that your body has the rest of the day to burn it.

Anjana Sukhani starts her day with ABC juice
A pure vegetarian, a significant portion of Anjana's diet comprises sprouts, protein and pulses. She also tries to balance her intake of carbohydrates. These days she starts her day with ABC (apple, beetroot and carrot) juice. A glass of milk everyday is a must in her diet.

Celeb tip: Avoid getting into a fitness rut Shake up your diet and exercise routine every few months. This helps the body maintain peak metabolism levels, which is beneficial in burning extra calories.

Sarah Jessica Parker snacks on an apple 30 minutes before stepping out
Snacking on an apple will help you stave off those dreaded hunger pangs that precede a binge attack. The Sex and the City star swears by walking, which she says helps her keep the pounds off, and believes that eating at the right time can work wonders for the body.

Celeb tip: Eat breakfast half an hour before rushing out of the house.
This will prevent you from rushing out feeling empty or too full.

Pack a lunch dabba from home, says Minissha Lamba
Minissha packs a lunch dabba from home, which ensures that the food is low on oil and sodium (salt). She also eats every two hours to prevent her metabolism rates from slacking.

Celeb tip: Aim to eat till you're "satisfied", not "full" at the end of each meal
This will prevent the body from having to store extra calories, which are often stored as fat.

5 Tips to eat (and live) well

1. Respect your food. Be aware of what's going in your stomach. Eat at fixed times, as delaying meals can cause acidity.

2 Chew every morsel. Avoid shoving in large spoonfuls of food without chewing food thoroughly.

3. Stay in the moment. When you are eating, just eat. Do not combine it with other activities.

4. Have dinner before 7 pm. After this time, the body slowly starts to shut down and move towards sleep. To eat late is to challenge the digestive system. This causes indigestion.

5. Eat with a smile. Be happy while you eat, as this can aid the digestion process.

DISCLAIMER: mid-day and its affiliates shall have no liability for any views, thoughts and comments expressed on this article.

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