Mindful eating for optimal nutrition

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dr. Wahyu Ika
dr. Wahyu Ika W., Sp.GK(K), M.Gz, M.Biomed. Photo: FKUI

IO – “Optimal” nutrition is defined as a combination of foods ingested by an individual that satisfies their body’s needs. A person’s total caloric ingestion must be aligned with their individual energy needs. Caloric needs depend on age, metabolism rate, and physical activity. The common daily calorie intake recommendation for adults with medium physical activity is 2,000 calories a day for women and 2,500 a day for men. If the calories obtained from eating exceed energy expenditure, the unused calories will be stored as fat. If this continues, the person will become overweight, or even obese. 

In a webinar held on Wednesday (09/02/2022), dr. Wahyu Ika W., Sp.GK(K), M.Gz, M.Biomed, declared that mindful eating is the best strategy for obtaining optimal nutrients, as well as avoiding obesity and eating disorders. “‘Mindfulness’ means ‘being fully aware’. Therefore, ‘mindful eating’ means that you are fully aware of everything when you eat: what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, as well as how you eat. You are also fully aware of the emotions you feel when you eat, as well as the physical cues your body gives you when you eat,” she said. 

She went on to say that everyone should eat on a regular schedule and portion according to their individual needs: “The 2,000 or 2,500 calorie a day should be spread out into five meal times: eat 20% of your caloric need during breakfast, 15% during ‘elevenses’ (mid-morning snack time), 25% during lunch, 15% during afternoon tea break, and 25% during dinner. Your food must contain carbohydrates, proteins, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. Our bodies still need carbohydrate and fats, no matter what. However, we can choose to eat brown rice or potatoes instead of white rice.” 

“Mindless” vs “Mindful” Eating 

The Physician Nutrition Specialist from RSUI Depok, West Java, stated that people tend to eat mindlessly instead of mindfully: “In mindless eating, we eat carelessly. We tend to ignore the fact that our stomach is full, we eat when we are emotional, we eat randomly instead of regularly, we don’t care how much we eat, we eat nothing but ‘comfort food’ like fried rice, brain curry or chocolate, and we multitask as we eat. On the contrary, mindful eating means listening to our body when it signals that our stomach is full and we stop eating at once. It means that we eat only when we’re hungry, we eat only during meal times, we mostly consume only healthy and nutritious foods, we control our snacks, we pay attention to how much we eat, and we don’t do anything else when we eat, including checking our gadgets,” she said. 

The benefits of mindful eating include improved ability to reduce stress by up to 89%, 91% enhanced clarity of mind, energy level increased by 79%, improved ability to remain calm to 91%, shifted leadership paradigm to 73%, and increased ability to connect with others to 85%,” dr. Ika said. 

How do we practice mindful eating then?

 “There are five simple principles to implement: enjoy everything we eat and be grateful for it, eating with concentration and not allowing ourselves to get distracted by other activities when eating, paying attention to our bodies’ physical signals by recognizing when we are really hungry and when we eat simply to ease our stress, eating slowly and chewing properly, and learning to accept everything as it is and not deal with guilt, anxiety, anger, or other emotions when eating. It’s all right if you haven’t been eating right – just start now! There is no such thing as ‘too late’ to habituate to mindful eating,” dr. Ika said. (est)