I have been eating gluten-free for close to 3 years now. Along my health journey previously, I had dabbled with eating gluten free but could not break the ties with that gluten protein I had known my whole life. Especially when I went to Paris, how can a girl go without the bread and croissants? Not eating gluten at that point only signalled deprivation and loss of enjoyment in food. Gluten being the glue-like protein in some grains, had literally glued itself to my emotional brain.
My health and wellbeing weren’t a priority at that time. I couldn’t make the connection between what I was eating and how I was feeling. As is the case with divine timing in life, when the time was right, the time was definitely right, and I have never looked back since. My Hashimoto’s, the auto-immune disease that I have been healing from, has also never looked back since. I no longer look at any yummy gluten filled food item, instead I notice how good being well feels. There is no longing or yearning and it has only made me more creative with my meals and cooking. For the girl who used to live off Vegemite toast three times a day, I have come a very long way.
A few years ago, finding delicious gluten free food was a bit tricky, usually confined to an old Raspberry Friand that had sat behind a glass cabinet for too long. Yummy yes, but not the idea of balanced nutrition. In a performing season, we rehearse until 3pm so I’m usually ravenous by this point and this is when I eat my lunch/dinner. I like to make this my main meal of the day which means taking account of a few things:
- A healthful balance of Macronutrients – protein, carbohydrate and fat
- Greens either cooked or raw in a salad
- Time out to slowly enjoy my meal and to stop being or feeling ‘busy’or rushed
Most people naturally have a stronger digestive power in the middle of the day, as per our normal circadian rhythms but the 24/7 busy cycle has potentially changed that a little with our longer working hours and less sleep time. And for performers like me, we have always been a little different, working long hours spread across the day, building to a the big finale at 10.30pm. Lunch has to sustain me through to the end of the show with only a light snack in between so it has to be nourishing and long lasting.
I really take the time to be mindful when I’m eating, even if it means it takes much longer. Chewing food properly, in the realm of 20-30 chews (or more!) is the very simplest way to improve digestion, therefore nutrient absorption, which means happier cells. ESPECIALLY, if I have a big show or I’m a little anxious or my tummy is a little off that day, chewing properly is crucial. I learned this the hard way for many years, always being a rush. Rushing does not achieve much but it especially means you won’t be rushing to digest your meal if you eat it faster.
Mindful eating and chewing properly also means you’re more likely not to gulp air when you eat. There is only one place that all the gulped air can go, and that’s sitting uncomfortably in your tummy – it’s really unpleasant running around stage in a tutu or unitard! It also means getting the best out of the goodness you are putting in your body and letting the enzymes in our saliva do their job before it even makes it to the stomach and small intestine.
The small intestine has various important tasks at hand, most of the chemical digestion of our food takes place here. Sadly for all of us who have a tendency to rush, it can never make up for the fact that the saliva produced from chewing the food in your mouth didn’t get to play its role either. Undigested food particles then travel through to the large intestine causing bloating, gas, pain and discomfort and subsequent bowel issues. It’s not good news in the short term or the long term unfortunately, and can have a negative effect on the ecosystem in our gut, the microflora, or the good bacteria.
The Europeans have known about mindful eating for years: the best way to enjoy a meal is to take the time, sit down, be present and appreciate. I also find that eating in the company of others, noticeably affects my digestion for the better. Positive connection and interaction are literally crucial to our health, our brain is wired to feel anxious through a loss of connection. Mindful eating is also appreciating where the food came from and how fortunate we are to be nourished by it. Maybe take note if this happens for you too?
That’s not to say that eating alone isn’t a joyful experience itself, almost like a meditation. Honouring yourself with excellent nutrition and the sensory experience of eating is a beautiful and easy way of treating ourselves. I find being mindful of the eating experience only leads to improved digestion. Appreciating the look, the smell and the taste of the food is just as important as how it fuels us physically. The sensory experience feeds the mind and the soul for a full balanced experience.
We need food to fuel our cells, for growth and development, metabolism, for supplying enzymes to make chemical reactions in the body such as making hormones. Eating is a fact of life, but I believe it goes beyond merely function and moves across to being another experience to be thankful and appreciate the beauty in life.