A more mindful munch

Hello world!

Maurice is with his loving granny…which leaves me with an unexpected moment to have a cup of tea and a bit of a reflection on life etc.

I don’t know about you but something about the multitude of new year diet adverts on telly really winds me up. Partly perhaps because I could do with shedding a bit of weight, and partly the very assumption that everyone wants to lose weight sort of irks me somehow. My main obstacle to being the slim Anya that I know I can be is that I am very, very greedy. I mean, the kind of greedy where I feel personally affronted and wronged if my husband and I are eating and I feel like his plate has a bit more on it than mine. And I am always thinking about second helpings even as I am working my way through my first plate.

My greediness has made me ashamed a few times in my life. Once when I was at a friends’ wedding in Sri Lanka, an epic and awesomely beautiful wedding it was, with the most phenomenally fantastic Sri Lankan buffet for the wedding breakfast. I made my way around the buffet piling my plate ever-higher with every single taste-bud-tantalising choice at my disposal, and sat down at my place. I had been seated next to a Sri Lankan man, a lovely naturalist called Gemenu who was a fascinating wedding guest to be seated next to as he regaled me with his tales of the wildlife of Sri Lanka and having met David Attenborough (yes that was naturalist for those of you who may have initially read that as “naturist” and had a slightly different picture)….very interesting man he was, and also about half my size, as older Sri Lankan men are wont to be. More embarrassingly, his plate had less than half the food on it that mine did. I actually sheepishly tried to hide some of my mountain of food underneath a roti/knife/napkin, anything that I could find to disguise the fact that I had been such an utter utter glutton. It’s not the only time I have been similarly worried about my lack of restraint where wonderful food is concerned. And so this greed is quite a potential problem really.

Before I had Maurice, I was teaching about 10 hours of Pilates a week, practising Pilates for at least 2 hours weekly, plus cycling everywhere in my day. I was a zippy cycling Pilates courier, if you like. My smallest daily cycle was a 15-mile round trip, and the longest day clocked up 24 miles with short bursts of 7 or 8 miles. This was every day, nipping here and there from south east to west to east London doing my daily Pilates-and-publishing business. So I didn’t really have to think about the greediness then, as it was helpfully burned off by all that cycling. But not so now in my post-baby life. I walk a lot with Maurice, and I teach Pilates although don’t get as much time to do my own as I used to, and this clearly doesn’t do the same job of working off hefty portions of good food.

Given that I am not the kind of temperament that takes kindly to being told that I can’t have a big portion of something (it’s my first impression of a “good” or “bad” restaurant…how much food is on the plate), dieting in the conventional sense is not really my kind of thing.

However. I do feel there is a call for mindful eating and being more aware and realistic about how much I am consuming. I remember when I was training for a triathlon once i read an article which told you how to shave off a few minutes here and there from your time by very tiny actions all building up to giving you an overall boost..tiny simple obvious (but easily missed) things such as making sure you leave your kit laid out in precisely the right order so your changes between disciplines are as swift as they can be. And this is the type of dieting that I think I need to do. Be aware of the detail of how I am slowing down round the bends in my eating, and decide to make small amends to be sharper and speedier.

For example… If I kept an actual honest real food diary, I would probably be quite staggered by how much I consume that I “don’t count”, and so develop amnesia about. So whereas I think I generally eat very healthily even though I know that I’m greedy, I also lie to myself about the extra meals that I partake of. The little bits of fish finger or pasta/toast and cream cheese that Maurice doesn’t eat, so I do as I don’t want to waste it. The extra 2 pieces of garlic bread that are hoovered up before a pizza dinner on a Friday evening. Hoovered yet not actually even tasted particularly. Being more mindful about eating: make sure that at least most of what you eat daily is made up of highly nutritious goodness, colourful and seasonal food, and choose to enjoy and savour everything that you eat, really taste everything that you eat. This may help to sidestep this kind of mindless consumption which tips your calorie intake above what is necessary.

I also speedily send my desire to having seconds, before I have finished the first plate. “This is so so good, must have more must have more”, my little brain is saying to me. But, if I actually stopped and let my body enjoy the food as I was ingesting it, and calmed down a bit with the snappy dog-like urge to consume because there may never be food ever again, then I would soon realise that actually I’m quite full, and happily end the meal content and sated, rather than bursting at the seams.

And then there’s the really nutritionally empty calories to be found in a big glass of red wine, refilling your wine glass before it’s even been drained, so actually you lose sight of how many glasses you’ve had (I must add, I never did this while I was pregnant if anyone’s wondering!)….although I can con myself to timbuktu about the health benefits of red wine, having a bottomless glass is tantamount to having a second pudding. A nutritionist once said to me that you need to think of wine as a big mars bar. You wouldn’t want to ruin the taste of a lovely meal by finishing immediately with a big mars bar (or maybe you would, each to their own etc), and it is the same in terms of calories.

My real downfall is ice cream, I have always been a sucker for it, if left alone I can do huge damage to a defenceless tub of ice cream. Aside from the obvious kind of swaps, such as freezing mashed banana and then diving into that (delicious as ice cream in every way), it’s more for me about altering my brain’s perception of things, of portion sizes, of the actual need for ice cream.

Basically I need to notice what I eat more, and continue to move around a bit more too. My pre-baby activity isn’t really possible for me at the moment and so I need to concede that if the shape I’m in makes me blue, a few things need to alter slightly in order for it to change. But nothing as drastic as signing up for a telly diet. Although I have just signed up for a new yoga class at Greenwich Pilates which I am very much looking forward to, for healing body and mind over the next couple of months…

Stay well and happy. Oh and buy my new book! It’s out next week. A Little Course in Pilates, published by DK. It looks great I’m very proud.

Until next time…




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