Tuesday, 26 May 2015

How (And Why) To Be A Mindful Eater

Hi again Fodmappers

As Fodmappers we know we need to be mindful of what we eat but is that the same as mindful eating?

Today I am delighted to bring you a special guest post from my friend, and fellow health blogger, the fabulous Samantha Russell. I hope you enjoy.

How (and Why) to be a Mindful Eater

Are you looking for a simple way to boost the goodness you already get from your meals? Mindful eating might be the practice you’re looking for.

It’s becoming increasingly obviously that when it comes to health, wellness, and food there is a lot more going on than simply the kinds of foods we eat. While following a low FODMAP diet is an awesome way for many people to work on digestive issues, health concerns, IBS, or other health situations, we can also start to look at our thoughts and behaviours and use them to improve our lives too. In this post we are going to explore the idea of ‘mindful eating’ and how this practice can help you do everything from get more pleasure and nutrition from your food, to aid your digestion and help you lose weight. It’s exciting stuff!

Why try mindful eating?

So, first of all, why should you care about mindful eating? Isn’t eating nutrient-dense, low FODMAP food enough?

Well, it certainly can be, but if you want even more bang for your buck when it comes to your way of eating, getting mindful can have a range of benefits including:

  • Finding more pleasure in food
  • More efficient digestion
  • Improvement of digestive complaints
  • Improvement of emotional or binge eating behaviours
  • Being better able to hear the bodies hunger and fullness signals

How can simply being mindful achieve all this? As I see it, there are two main ways:

1. When you sit down to a meal, or really pay attention to what you are eating, feel it, smell it, and see it, you begin what’s called the ‘cephalic phase of digestion’. Basically, this is the very first phase of your digestive system, and it’s in your head. That’s right - our digestion starts in the brain!

When you see, smell, taste, or even vividly imagine food and eating your body begins to prepare to digest the food. You literally ‘get your juices flowing’. Wikipedia suggests that a whole 20% of your gastric secretions (juices in your tummy and gut that helps you break down and absorb your food) comes from this ‘head phase’ of digestion - so if you’re not paying attention and don’t stop to notice or think about your food, you’re missing out on a big contribution to your digestive system. Obviously, if you are having issues with your digestion then you want all the help you can get, so eating mindfully and getting the cephalic digestive phase going is a great idea.

2. When you concentrate on eating and enjoying your food, you relax. Relaxation is really important to digestion, pleasure, and appetite. The more you notice your food, the less you will worry about other things and this allows your body to properly send, receive, and act on all the complex messages and reactions that need to happen for healthy, happy mealtimes. Stress is a major contributor to digestive complaints, and so relieving stress, especially while we are eating and immediately after is essential to improving your experience.

What is mindful eating?

Ok, so that list of benefits and explanations has you interested? Now you want to know: What is mindful eating and how can I do it?

Well, the simple part is that mindful eating means really being present when you eat. Pay attention to your food, think about eating as you do it, and feel the experience of eating. This means no multi-tasking during meals or snacks. It as easy (and as difficult!) as that.

So, how do you do it?

  • Eat slowly (Harvard Medical School has some suggestions on how to do this)
  • Use your senses to explore your food (sight, smell, taste, touch, sound)
  • Focus on eating. This famous study found that distraction (in this case listening to two different lectures at the same time) reduced the amount of water participants absorbed for an hour after they drank it. If we can’t even efficiently absorb water while distracted, proper nutrition is going to suffer as well.
  • Sip your drink and chew your food. This will not only help you slow down, but will mean you can taste your food (yay for cephalic phase digestion!), and it’ll be really well prepared for great digestion once it makes it to your stomach and intestinal tract.
  • Be prepared for thoughts and emotions. You may find some stuff comes up when you slow down and eat mindfully. Stress around food, body image, eating, health, or anything can bubble to the surface when given this kind of quiet and space to do so. The best thing to do is to try to let it go and return your attention you eating. Jot it down to think about later if you must, but don’t get caught up now. Now is for the food.

However you feel like achieving it, that is totally fine. You may like music while you eat, you may prefer the quiet - it’s all about how it feels to you. There are a couple of things you should try to avoid, though.

What shouldn’t you do?

  • Over analyse or over-think. You don’t have to spend 45 minutes with a handful of nuts, sniffing each one and imaging it growing from a seed, being harvested, blah blah blah, until you eat it. You just have to eat the nuts and think about eating the nuts while you’re doing it.
  • Stress about it. The whole point of mindful eating is stress reduction. If you’re trying out a technique and it leaves you MORE worried, stressed, or feeling like you ‘failed’, stop doing that! Try something else, be gentle with yourself, and enjoy the process.

This whole process should feel good, pleasurable, and kind. Sure, it may be a little uncomfortable at times, as you deal with old habits, stale or out-dated beliefs or emotions, and so on, but I trust you to know the difference between those feelings and when something is legitimately not working for you.

So, if you are on a journey to better digestion try practicing mindful eating as you go. I’m positive it will have nothing but benefits and is a perfect accompaniment to the wonderful recipes here at Fabulous FODMAPS!

This post was written by Samantha Russell, the blogger and Eating Psychology coach behind Live the Whole. Her site and services are dedicated to helping people be happy, healthy, and whole no matter who they are, where they are, or what they do. She takes a holistic mind-body approach to health, with a particular focus on the effects of stress, psychology, and belief systems on our health. You can read more from Samantha at livethewhole.com

'Til next time Fodmappers - Stay Fabulous. x

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Take A Low FODMAP Pizza My Heart Now Baby

Hi again Fodmappers

Talk about not enough hours in a day, right now there aren't even enough days in the week! So what is a Fodmapper to do? What I need right now is low FODMAP fast food. So tonight I'm making pizza!

This week also happens to be National Vegetarian Week and the lovely people at the Vegetarian Society are travelling round the UK sharing pizzas with the people they meet. As a vegetarian that seems like another good reason to indulge in a little cheesey, tomatoey (is that even a word?) yumminess - made in the way only Fodmappers know how.

So here's what you need to make your own low FODMAP fast food pizza.

You Will Need

Gluten free pitta bread
Tomato puree or tomato ketchup
A few slices of peppers
Some olives
Grated Cheese
Oregano and Basil


1. Heat the oven to 180C.
2. Meanwhile spread a little tomato puree or tomato ketchup onto the pitta bread. (Tomato ketchup has been shown to be low in FODMAPs). Add the grated cheese, peppers, olives and sprinkle with herbs.
3. Place the pitta pizza on a baking sheet and pop into the oven for approx. 8 to 10 minutes or until the cheese melts and starts to golden.

And there you have it. Low FODMAP fast food for busy Fodmappers. And if you're not busy? Well everyone deserves a night off now and then.

Til next time Fodmappers - Stay Fabulous. x

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Wheat Free Tabbouleh You'll Want To Share

Hi Fodmappers

National Vegetarian Week is fast approaching and this year it's all about sharing! And as sharing food can be problematic for those with IBS I thought it would be fun to join in with the spirit of this event in a low FODMAP way. So I've come up with a low FODMAP recipe you can safely share with your friends whether they are vegetarian or not.

Tabbouleh is one of those innocent looking summery salads which nevertheless can be problematic for Fodmappers. Most recipes uses couscous or bulgar wheat which are high FODMAP and can cause the symptoms we know too well. Luckily quinoa makes a great low FODMAP alternative.

Quinoa is highly nutritious. It is a complete protein (meaning that it contains all essential amino acids) so it's a particularly useful addition to a vegan diet or whenever extra protein is needed. It also contains magnesium, calcium and manganese, as well as B vitamins and vitamin E. And it's very easy to prepare.

The other Tabbouleh ingredient which can cause digestive problems, is onions. Though I normally replace onions with the green part of spring onions in cooked dishes, I have left them out altogether here and added plenty of herbs and spices instead. I'm pleased with the result - it has plenty of flavour despite the lack of onions. And when sharing food with friends I'm sure you'd rather be safe than sorry. Try it and let me know what you think.

Spicy Low FODMAP Quinoa Tabbouleh


1/2 cup of quinoa
1 cup of water
A little oil of your choice
1 tomato
Approx 3" cucumber
2 Tbsp of olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
Fresh coriander
Fresh mint
Salt and pepper


1. Rinse quinoa thoroughly and drain.
2. Heat a little oil in the bottom of a saucepan and toast the quinoa until it stops popping.
3. Add the water to the pan and bring to the boil.
4. Reduce the heat and allow quinoa to simmer until all water is absorbed.
5. Transfer into a bowl and allow to cool. Fluff with a fork.
6. Quarter the tomato and remove the seeds.
7. Dice tomato and cucumber and add to the quinoa.
8. Combine the olive oil, lemon juice and spices.
9. Add a generous amount of coriander and just a little mint to the dressing. Pour over the quinoa salad and stir gently.
10. Season to taste.

Serve with wheat free walnut and rosemary soda bread and a green salad.

Share the love.

'Til next time Fodmappers - Stay Fabulous. x

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Because It's Never 'Just' IBS

Hi again Fodmappers

It seems that most weeks I find myself talking to someone who has been diagnosed with IBS but who is sure their doctor has got it wrong. They are genuinely suffering and feel sure something has been missed. They wonder whether they may have Coeliac disease or Crohns or worse.

And it seems to me that they are sure it can't be 'just' IBS because we've all been led to believe that IBS is a trivial illness.

IBS is the kind of thing that comedians like to poke fun at. Sean Lock is one comedian who jokes about IBS, but he also says ".. IBS isn’t that bad, is it? I’ve got a sister-in-law who has it." Some people have even had their doctors tell them it's 'just' IBS. For the record, I once saw a doctor who told me it would 'pass'. It seems doctors are comedians too. Just.

So let's get this straight. There is no 'just' about IBS.

IBS is a nasty illness which affects every part of your life. It's not 'just' the bloating and the way that, over a few hours, you can appear to have become several months pregnant. Neither is it 'just' the way your bowels develop a life of their own, apparently rebelling against you at every opportunity. It's certainly not 'just' the intense pain which the pain killers don't seem to touch. It's an awful lot more.

It's the way you begin to fear for your job as you are taking more and more time off work.

It's the way you're surviving on very little sleep as finding a comfortable position at night seems impossible.

It's the look on your friend's faces when you make another excuse not to go out for food.

It's the way you've had to give up on that yoga class as you can't trust your belly to stay silent for that long.

It's not being able to remember the last time you did anything spontaneously.

It's having to cancel that trip at the last minute.

It's being scared to eat.

It's the way you lack the energy to carry out the simplest tasks.

It's the way your whole life seems to revolve around knowing where the nearest loo is.

It's the way your friends and family don't quite understand.

It's the embarrassment of it all.

It's the way it knocks your confidence.

It's the way it drags you down. 

And yes, much of that is true for others who suffer with chronic conditions, but we wouldn't (I hope) trivialise those. Having said that, I have a lot of sympathy for people with M.E which, until fairly recently, was referred to as 'yuppie flu'. Talk about trivialising!

So this week I was pleased to discover a petition started by the IBS Network to 'recognise it's not 'just' IBS'. (You can find out more about the IBS Network here.) It strikes me that this is exactly what is needed. But because IBS is embarrassing I do wonder how much publicity this campaign will get.

So, if this is something you feel strongly about, please add your name to the petition and let's stop trivialising this awful condition. It's a small step but you never know, it might 'just' make a difference.

'Til next time Fodmappers - Stay Fabulous. x