A good appetite is a blessing, isn’t it? The good appetite some of us are blessed with also urges us to eat more than our fill at each meal, our intake always tipping beyond the point we are truly satiated. They call us gourmets.
We simply eat more than what is essential for us to be at the peak of our health. We tend to be generously proportioned. Looking at it closely, isn’t it a fact that the problem of overeating happens because we don’t know the point at which we are fully satiated? We ignore altogether that signal from the abdomen.
A large chunk of the fitness trainees I had worked with over the last decade or so as a coach had this issue of overeating as the main problem. One would like to discuss whether there is a way to look at the issue without resorting to the mechanical methods of going on drastic diet regimens and so on.
Diet plans and counting calories can be great tools. However, when any plan is forced on us by our new-born resolve to follow the advice of fitness experts outside, the chances of total compliance are not bright, as we can understand. Our habits win ultimately because they are what propels us forward from day to day, each one of us.
One feels that this is the reason we should focus on the root of the problem. The root of the problem is simply overeating. It happens when we ignore our satiation level and it becomes a habit. Habits always pull us into a groove of repetitive, mechanical action, from which it is difficult for us to get out.
So, how do we tackle the issue? Once I was discussing this with a trainee who had all the circumstances to enjoy his fabulous appetite and love for the choicest food, which, according to him, was one of his great delights in life. He said it was tough for him to give it up. Life has no meaning then, he said, smiling rather dejectedly.
One is still not sure whether diet plans backed by strong resolve alone can work under a condition of such deep-rooted constitutional resistance to austerity measures in food habits. The answer to the problem of overeating can, perhaps, come from what the Buddha had said about eating meditatively.
“How do we eat meditatively? To begin with, one would suggest experimenting with a ripe grapefruit on empty stomach for a few days in the morning. You put the grapefruit in your mouth and squeeze out its juice little by little with your tongue and the roof of your mouth. Let the juice bring alive the springs of saliva up your taste buds and slowly sip the juice down the walls of your mouth. Like wine tasting.
Have you enjoyed eating a grapefruit-like this? Most definitely, yes. Children savour a grapefruit-like this and you remember you had been the same way when you were all children. The gobbling up tendency was not there then. Can you, as you eat, also think of the warmth of the sun that had ripened the fruit and the salt of the soil and the rains from the skies that had nourished the grapevine over the seasons? Surely, you experience a different tang in the taste of the fruit when you eat it like that. It is as though you are experiencing the taste of the fruit for the first time.”
Similarly with your regular meals. If you are in the habit of taking three sumptuous meals a day—breakfast, lunch, and dinner—you may begin by practicing meditative eating in the case of at least one of the meals. In fact, this is the first habit we teach out new trainees before even starting on a diet plan – eating without distraction and eating slowly.
Do not watch the television, or skim over Facebook posts or Instagram while eating. Give your total attention to what you eat and the way you are enjoying the eating process. That way, you feel totally fulfilled and satiated when you reach a point. You just will not want to spoil the pleasure of a good meal by going beyond that point.
Eating right is a great feeling and, when we start experiencing its joy, we do that every time we sit down for a meal.
(The author is co-founder and Product head at Alpha Coach and writes a fortnightly column on fitness for www.tribuneindia.com)