Why I am a Mindful Eater

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I’ve been debating in my mind whether or not to write this entry for a while now. You see, it’s a pretty personal subject and it’s not all that easy to talk about. What made me decide to go for it was reading Cynosure‘s many posts on mindful eating. I realised I could relate a lot to the points she was making and I also realised that sharing my story might help somebody out there realise that they are not alone.

I’ll explain.

In 2009 I was finally diagnosed with a mild case of Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory bowel disease. It may come as a surprise to you when I say I was mostly relieved to get this diagnosis. But you would have been too. I had spent the previous three years or so in constant discomfort, unable to eat a whole meal without feeling nauseous and tired. In the process, I also got my gallbladder taken out. And yet, my doctors could not figure out what was wrong with me. I was tested for helicobacter pylori, rheumatoid arthritis, coeliac disease. I visited so many doctors I lost count of them. At one point I even ended up having a food intolerance done, having to cut out foods like corn, sugar, coffee, tomatoes, pork, chocolate and lentils from my diet. Big fat waste of time that was.

And still I was sick. And it was erratic. Sometimes, eating crackers affected me while eating junk food was absolutely fine; other days, I just stuck to dry bread because it was the only thing I could stomach. The hardest part was the fact that I dreaded mealtimes. I’ve always been a girl who loves food, who loves trying different flavours and cuisines and suddenly food was becoming an enemy. Imagine going out to eat with your friends and not being able to eat more than a few forkfuls of whatever is on your plate. Imagine feeling so, so, so very tired and in pain after a small meal that you have to lie down.

I began to train myself. I had to, if I was ever going to enjoy food again. I only ate what I felt like eating and when I felt like eating. I stopped paying attention to convention and started paying attention to what my body was telling me. My body was saying ‘Davinia, we’re a little damaged, but if you listen to me and do as I say, I think we’ll be alright.’ My portions diminished drastically. I couldn’t manage more than 50g of pasta at one go, but dammit I was going to enjoy those 50g. I never let myself feel full, but I never felt hungry either. I started to avoid junk food places altogether, started to realise that drinking lots of water actually made me feel better. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was practising mindful eating.

And, whaddaya know? Even though I was still sick I began feeling more energised and I began losing weight, effortlessly, for the first time in my life. My body was finally in charge and it knew best, it really did.

Nevertheless, when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s, I was relieved. After three years, I finally had a name for my disease. It wasn’t some new disease my body decided to invent. I wasn’t alone. There’s a whole network of IBD support out there, including Malta’s very own MACC, who do a lot of great work.

With the diagnosis came the treatment. Unfortunately, that consisted of a six-month course of steroids, which was something I hope not to have to repeat again in a long, long time. Where before I had got used to eating very little and very specific foods, the steroids made me hungry all the time. Hungry and angry. If I couldn’t eat what I wanted when I wanted I would get depressed and snappy. And so I ate and ate and put on a lot of weight and I completely forgot my healthy habits because even though I was still trying to listen to my body my body was listening to the pills.

It’s been just under a year since I stopped the steroids now. In this time I’ve been trying to train myself to eat the way I did when I was unwell. It’s not easy to do when your appetite is ‘normal’ again. Sometimes, when I’m enjoying my meal, I find it hard to push the plate away if I’m not full. Instead, I try to put smaller portions in my plate and limit myself to one serving. Another thing I try to do is to add at least one fresh vegetable to every meal I make. If I can’t do that, I have some fresh fruit.

When you practise mindful eating, you are letting yourself tune into your body. Your body will tell you what it needs. You will suddenly get a craving for oranges, sushi (I crave this a lot), chocolate or a big, greasy burger. I’ll bet you anything that if you give into the burger craving, your body will be asking you for fresh salad the next day.

 

Here are some things to keep in mind if you want to practise mindful eating:

  • Eat when you’re hungry. If you’re not hungry at lunch-time, don’t eat at lunch-time.
  • Eat what you feel like eating. Even if it’s chocolate cake.
  • Ask yourself how you can incorporate more fresh fruit and veg into your meal.
  • Stop eating when you’re no longer hungry and do not eat until you are full.
  • Savour every mouthful. Think about the way the food tastes. Try to sit down and focus on your food. Try not to multi-task while you are eating.
  • Drink lots and lots and lots of water.
6 Comments
  • Mark
    February 11, 2011

    I realise now that a deceased great uncle also practised mindful eating. His credo: “After a meal you should get up and feel like you could that all over again. If you don’t, you’ve eaten too much.”

    Great story Dav!

    • admin
      February 11, 2011

      Thanks Mark. You feel so much better if you don’t let yourself get stuffed with food. Only problem is, it’s a bit hard to stop when you’re eating something delicious, like a BBQ Chicken Sandwich from Hanks ;)

  • grace
    February 15, 2011

    Thank you for sharing! Mindful eating makes so much sense to me, I just wish I practiced it more often!

  • Sarah
    February 20, 2011

    This makes a lot of sense to me and I am going to make every effort to try it and see. My problem is my body usually craves bad bad food all the time!!! LOL

  • Leah Muscat
    August 26, 2012

    Hi. I’m a Maltese living in Sweden. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease 3 years ago. I was operated all of a sudden one day coz of pain and they found a gi-normous inflammated area of intestines and colon. 3 years ago I was told to avoid fatty foods.. that’s it.

    They told me that nobody knows the cause to Crohns.. and nobody knows the cure. So I was actually shocked when you mentioned in your article hat you were given steroids for the disease.

    5 months after the operation I fell into a very “tired-period”.. not really knowing what it was, blood tests showed that my body had just 5% of iron in it… and I was injected a big bag of iron that cost me 400€ here in Sweden!

    So I can very much relate to a lot in your story. I have never met anyone with this disease. You are the first.

    Please email me back if you can. I’d like to know what sort of diet you have. I try to read up online.. but so many different opinions and sometimes rather than helping me, they confuse me.

    Thanks for your time.

    • admin
      August 27, 2012

      Hi Leah – sorry to hear you’ve been having a hard time dealing with your Crohn’s. It’s a tricky disease because everybody’s case is different so you need to find what works best for you. Please do email me and we’ll chat about it. You can reach me at daviniahamilton (at) gmail (dot) com

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