We are always amazed by what the French can eat in a week’s time and still stay slim. There are very little restrictions to the types of foods the French eat regularly – chocolate, full-fat yogurts and cheese, bread, delicious desserts, rich sauces, and the list goes on and on. Yet France has one of the lowest obesity rates in the world. One look around in any major French metropolis, and you’re unlikely to see many overweight people (other than the tourists) and very rarely, anyone obese.
Some of the main reasons for this paradox are the moderate portions French people eat, as well as their set mealtimes in a day, and their love of unprocessed, whole foods. Added to which, the French naturally practice “mindful eating”, even if they didn’t invent it! It is a cultural norm that even the youngest children are taught.
In essence, mindful eating means being totally aware of the eating experience: from making conscious decisions about what you are eating and when, to being aware of how you feel while you are eating, and most importantly, listening to your body and it’s response to food.
When you change your habits to include mindful eating, your body feels better and lighter, and if you happen to want to shed a few pounds, it’s a great starting point! Here below are some tips to incorporate mindful eating into your life.
1. Setting Intentions Daily
Knowing what you are going to eat and when is a great set-up is for a successful day of eating. Plan the night before, or at least by the morning time what you are going to eat for your three meals (and maybe one snack too), and your chances of mindful eating increase enormously. Be prepared for the day ahead!
2. No matter how simple, savor it and eat slowly
Regardless of what you are eating, pause for a few seconds between bites and eat slowly. You will give yourself the chance to really savor your food, as well as how your body feels while eating it. Eating slowly will also ensure you don’t overeat, helping you to stop before you feel uncomfortably full. Leave food on your plate if it’s too much, pas de problème!
3. Sit down for goodness sake!
Basic mindful eating requires sitting down at a table with proper utensils. No matter how simple your meal or snack, set the table and sit down to eat it. When you eat on the run, not only are you not focusing on your eating, but you will feel as though you didn’t actually have a meal … and set yourself up for mindless snacking later on.
4. Regular mealtimes, every day
I know people who don’t really have lunch, instead they plonk a bag of chips/dip or cheese/crackers on the kitchen island or their work desk and graze until dinner time. What??? Don’t be scared of a “large-ish” lunch if it’s healthy. Get together loads of veggies, a salad, protein of some sort, and go to town eating a proper meal at lunch time. Treat lunch like a slightly smaller dinner, and you will be physically, psychologically and emotionally satisfied until dinner.
5. No mindless snacking
Snacking on the go and picking at food throughout the day kills your hunger at mealtimes. If you need something to tide you over until dinner, then make a decision about what it will be and have it (sitting down, preferably on a plate). But don’t pick up a candy bar on the way out of the gas station, or pick at food while you’re cooking. Your appetite for your main meal will be ruined and your regular mealtime schedule out the window!
6. Let hunger in calmly
Don’t be scared of hunger! There is a great point on the hunger scale where you feel a healthy hunger, before you get to ravenous, that is the perfect point at which to enjoy your regular meal. Not ever feeling some level of hunger is a shame. Don’t rush to get a handful of almonds or a sugary drink as soon as you feel the slightest bit of hunger. Let it come without fear, without letting it become overwhelming and getting too famished.