Islamic habits, Mindfulness

The Practice of Eating Less and Eating Well

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I am yet to come cross a diet that requires us to eat less so we can lose the unwanted weight, be healthy and feel more energetic. These diets tell you too add or replace foods but they never tell you to eat less.

Our extra body weight only add more to our health concerns, dissipate energy and deprive us  of many activities you’d enjoy otherwise. You know you want to lose weight when you’re dreading at the thought joining your kids for a race. Or, you take the elevator when your other option is to take a couple of flights of stairs.

Have you considered the why behind your eating habits? We eat when we are are hungry but there are other reasons behind our eating habits as well-

Nostalgia– Often times we eat because some foods remind us about someone we used to know or some event that had occured in the past. We eat certain foods to revisit the time we had spent with that person. We also eat them becasue it can take us back to a certain time of our lives. Think about grandma’s falafel or black forest cakes that have memories attached to them. Notice the pictures and sounds come to your mind when you’re eating something to find out if you’re eating out of nostalgia

Comfort of familiarity- Think about all the foods we eat because we grew up eating them. We still have them in our diet because we are familiar with them, like eating hummus for breakfast or donuts for dessert. You’re not 5 anymore but you still eat a chocolate chip cookie after dinner everyday. What else do you eat bacause it was on the menu while you were growing up?

Abundance– Sometimes we eat just because it’s always available in plenty. We don’t have a chance to miss something because it’s there and gets replenished before we know it. Think about chips, juice, soda, cookies and ice cream. A lot of these items are discretionaries not necessities, like gucamole or slasa with chips. Or two varities of cream cheese with bagels. And don’t forget out of season fruits and vegetables.

Convenience- A lot of the time we eat because it’s convenient. Fast foods, processed food- from yogurt in tubes to tofu chunks in a package. Often times these come with hardly any nutrtion and loaded with ingredients that you can’t even pronounce. Try reading the labels on a cake from a grocery store or find out the ingredients in  ramen noodles.

I went gluten free for a while and I realized I missed eating bread becasue it’s so convenient to take out two slices from a package and eat as opposed to wait for the rice to warm up on the stove and then eat. What do you eat out of convenience?

Appeals to the senses– Often times we eat because of the way it looks, smells or feels. These food seem to send messages to your senses and tempts us. Think about how you feel when you look at a cheesecake or shrimp tempura. Or, it could be the smell of certain foods that beg for your attention, specially fried food, like fried chicken or baked goods, like pastries. We also like to eat because of the way how it feels inside our mouth, the sensations, for example, hot coffee, cold soda or chewy bagels. Notice the sensations the next time you have any of these foods and see which sense of yours it resonates with so you have better control over your eating.

Following trends– A lot of the times we eat because everyone else is eating it. Eating seafood doesn’t mean eating fish and shrimp anymore, it includes sea urchins, krills, calamari, squid and even sharks. We eat nuts, dates and seeds by the pounds and turn them into milk, cheese and flour, we wat honey by the gallons and make chips out of kelps and coconuts. These food come from all over the world and have an impact on your health and the environment. So think again when you eat foods that are non local, like eating jackfruit or not in seaon like eating corns in December.

So what can we do to develope an eating habit so we are healthier? What can we do so we are eating well and eating less and feel better than ever?

First of all, you want to know why you eat the way you eat. Find out how many of the reasons above is applicable to your current eating habit. And then you can practice the following for a healthier you-

Eat in the present– Remind yourself that you live in the present and you only eat what is good for you now.  Remember, nostalgia has no control over you. You had enjoyed eating pies made by aunt Hiba but it’s time to move on with your current life.

Find comfort in small steps– If you grew up on juice and donuts don’t go 180 and start a breakfast regimen that comprises of sprouted bread and wheat juice. Take small, consistent steps so you can develop a better eating habit. You can try eating whole grain muffins instead of donuts so you don’t feel deprived. Don’t go too drastic and don’t be too hard on yourself when you’re starting a new habit. Be kind to yourself.

Practice Strategic Deprivation– You want to practice strategic deprivation like Amy Dacyczin recommends in her book The Tightwad Gazette. Just because we can afford it doesn’t mean we must have it all the time. Abundance in food invariably leads to over eating. So wait a little longer before you replenish a box of chocolate or cookies or a bottle of Italian soda or that specialty ice cream which you love. Limit yourself on how much you can spend on treats and how often you can have them so they remain a treat and you don’t indulge in as much. You will eat less and enjoy more from practicing strategic deprevation.

Make good foods convenient– Don’t eat noodles from a styrofoam bowl just because it’s convenient or make a habit of going to the coffee shop becasue it’s on your way to work. Take your time to prepare good foods that you can eat when you’re pressed for time, like eating a few nuts, dates and banana or apple. Or, you can make coffee and smoothie at home and take it in a reusable container. It’s good for your health and good for the earth as well.

Be sensible– Be aware of which food appeals to your senses more, find out what it is that’s making them so irresistable to you. Now change the words, pictures and sounds that you assign when you describe these foods to yourself. It’s upto you how you want to perceive a red velvet cake- do you see a red cake that was made using a color that is a neurotoxins? Or do you see a red velvet cake that looks and smells divine? Reading and finding out about ingredients helps you to diminish its appeal.

Practice mindfulness- You want to eat foods that are good for you, so eat locally and eat from sustainable resources. You can say no to tuna that was not harvested from a sustainable resource. You make a difference in overfishing with this effort. Take time to know what you eat regularly and find out how they end up on your plate. There are many steps we can take with our food habits to restore the ocean and revive the rainforest. You will eat less but you’ll feel more fulfilled with your culinary choices.

Instant gratification- A lot of the time we eat because it provides instant gratification. You want to give into pleasure now than wait for a healthier you later. These are no easy challenges. If you struggle with this, try to delay the gratification. So go ahead and take that (your choice of words here to play down the senses) cupcake on your plate and delay eating it. Notice the strength of your urges as it dwindles by the second. And then you put it back, triumphantly. Try this every time you’re tempted with any food. The more you will try the easier it will become insha Allah.

And a word about finding balance- don’t overdo it. You want to find balance in your endeavor in eating less. So start small and be consistent. Eating less is not about deprivation. If you become ascetic it will be more about your ego and less about your intentions of your well being. So celebrate small victories along the way and enjoy treats occasionally.

I hope you can benefit from the tips above. Remind yourself that how you are, how you feel and look matters to you- these are your whys. When you have a “why” you will overcome any “how” insha Allah. Just start small and keep at it-

The most beloved of actions to Allah are those which are done persistently, even if they are little.” (Muslim 783).

Alhamdulillah.