Now Christmas is well and truly over attention quickly turns to losing weight, getting fit and making those drastic resolutions that only leads to unhappiness and resistance and potential failure of sticking to the promises you made on January 01st. We hear it ringing in our ears, wanting different for our family and kids… ‘this is the year we’ll try to eat healthily, this year we’re going to try to go out for walks, etc …’ 

Then term begins, after school activities start and before you know it you’ve fitted back into the same groove you so wanted your family to get out of.

And the very reasons we’re living in a society where childhood obesity is at epidemic levels and still rising is because the same things keep being repeated ‘must do this, don’t do that’ all the while not much changes and children are getting bigger. Kids today need real skills and appropriate rational and logical thinking techniques to manage growing up in such a world that focuses on consuming… more, more, more!

It was Albert Einstein that once said… “For Things to Change, Thinking Must Change”. And when it comes to eating especially one area that is not really covered in the fight against obesity is how much choice young people have now compared to previous generations. And the message that us, our parents and grandparents grew up with was eat-up, why? Well this was of course something related to the war and when food was not so plentiful. Today is very different.

We must change our thinking and behaviours round this out of date message and help young people manage the choices around them. Having more choice should not by definition mean consume more.  

It’s really tough for parents, as there are so many temptations and clever marketing messages, that often entice children in, and the pester-power ensues! Children don’t need diets they need to learn an awareness to the relationship and connection with food they have. And here’s the thing… food is not good or bad or should be viewed as ‘sins’, food is food and when deprived, desire for it increases. Encouraging children to appropriately and sensibly choose, they are learning a skill that will naturally help them instinctively know healthy foods and right amounts.

Mindful eating is the simple way of encouraging the process of eating with awareness. Young people eat for different reasons and most of the time it’s not for survival. Our stomach is on average the size of our fist and sedentary lifestyles reign, we think we need more food than we do.

But put into the mix emotions, stress, and the ever increasing pace of 21st century family living, incredibly when asked 82% of people couldn’t recall what they’d eaten for dinner the night before (study conducted at Bristol University).

The Cure For Portion Distortion…

Mindfully eating means not only do young people focus on what they’re eating, also on how much. In the same study, mindful eating reduced the amount people ate by 30%!

When added up, that’s an amazing amount of extra calories not consumed – and all without the boring depravity that so many ‘diets’ enforce. And where children are making natural and sensible choices, rather than on the huge choices available to them.

It helps them connect on a deeper level with what their body needs, not wants (from the hundredth fast food advert they’ve just seen!), and although we might fancy that piece of cake when we choose from a place of rationality, we’re not depriving ourselves merely making an informed decision. And this strength of decision making helps young people in all areas of their life, especially during adolescence when temptations and peer pressure are greatest.

Mindful eating helps us be responsible and provides conscious decisions to be made about the type and quantity of food eaten.

Try Mindful Eating as a family to notice what a difference it can make in the types and quantity eaten…

  • Slow your breathing to a comfortable gentle in and out breath. 
  • Make a conscious decision for the next few minutes you’ll only focus on this. Young children can watch their belly go up and down to help keep their attention.
  • Preparation – turn off all distractions and encourage your child/teen to help you in the kitchen where you can all focus completely on the food. The smells, texture and actions you take.
  • Eating – sit at a table with no distractions and take a deep breath in to smell the food. Observe what’s in front of you – the colours, textures and shapes.
  • Take a piece of food and place in your mouth, hold there for just a moment to allow the taste buds to start working.
  • Now slowly chew and swallow.
  • Before the next mouthful – ask your child/teen what else they noticed about the food.
  • Repeat the process and help your child/teen to notice when they’re getting full so they can begin to make the choice to stop eating and feel totally satisfied.
  • You may be surprised at the amount of food left! Try to eat at least 1 mindful meal or snack a day (this is great with a apple too!)- you’ll soon notice the difference.

I believe awareness and attention to eating in this way provides greater ability for young people to fully enjoy, appreciate and learn new ways to make informed decisions and the types and amounts of food they eat, preventing the typical ‘auto-pilot’ scenario of distracted eating.