By Anita Senior
We caught up with Leanne Hall, clinical psychologist, mind and body expert and spokesperson for new research conducted by Wonderful Pistachios about our relationship with food and all things snack related.
When it comes to keeping trim, how much does what we eat affect us versus how much we exercise?
Personally, I think it’s about your self esteem and your body image. However, it is more about what you eat than exercise. You can’t out-exercise a bad diet. It’s 80% nutrition and 20% exercise.
As a psychologist who deals with people who suffer from eating disorders, you tend to promote a method of mindful eating. So what is mindful eating?
Mindful eating is actually being present while you’re eating, rather than doing a million things at once, which is what we typically do when we eat. So it’s literally focussing on each mouthful. Being mindful of the taste, the temperature, the flavour.”
We tend to eat on the go too much. We eat while we’re on the internet. We eat while we’re cooking the kids breakfast of a morning. We’re not focussed on what we’re doing so that’s what mindful eating is; creating time to actually focus on what we’re doing.
What are your top tips on how to be a mindful eater?
The main idea is to plan ahead. You have to actually know when you’re going to be eating. Your’e creating space for that time. You’re turning off all distractions. Even if you can start off with just being mindful at one meal a day.
If you’re mindfully eating then your brain is going to get the message that you’re full. it takes 20 minutes for your brain to get that message. If you’ve just had dinner and you’re tempted to snack, have a glass of water and say I’ll give myself 20 minutes, if I’m still hungry then I’ll have something else. It’s also being mindful of that feeling of fulness versus am I really hungry or am I thirsty or am I tired or am I bored or am I stressed?
Mindful eating is probably most difficult when it comes to snacking as it is a category which is difficult to define int terms of when and how much. Why do we snack? Well actually, the last reason we snack is because we’re hungry really. The survey indicates 80% of us snack to reward ourselves and 78% snack to relax.
We create positive associations between snacking and how we feel. It does tend to trigger the reward centres in the brain and all those feel-good hormones like dopamine and serotonin. Therefore we’re more likely to snack in the future because we know it makes us feel good.
Why do people snack more these days than they used to?
I think it’s due to advertising and our accessibility to food. Again if you look at the research, 81% of people say they snack because people around them are snacking so one of our main triggers is peer pressure and an awareness that everyone around us is snacking .
It’s social media too. People are blogging and instagramming pictures of what they’re eating. Food porn is everywhere. We’re exposed to different ideas around eating and food more than we ever have been so it’s on our mind all the time.
We’re under a lot of stress as a society too. I think because we’re running around doing different things, snacking is a quick, easy way we can stop and feel good.
Sometimes, we go through our lives without really thinking about why we’re feeling the way we’re feeling. I think there’s a culture of avoiding unpleasant emotions. Food is an easy way to do this.
The survey shows 60% of Aussies crave snacks more than intimacy. Why do you think that is?
When we snack, it’s a one way relationship, isn’t it? We’re just receiving. We don’t have to give anything back. When it comes to intimacy and as wonderful as that is and that can trigger pleasure centres in the brain as well, we have to be an active participant in that and there’s expectations when we get to the intimacy side of things. Whereas with snacking, there’s no expectations.
You can just sit there with your trackies on and snack away and no one expects anything of you. It’s a selfish activity and we have to have selfish activities.
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