Adult children of people over 65 may worry about their parents’ nutrition. Hospitalizations and chronic illness may make a parent fragile and too thin. But many seniors have the opposite problem. They take in too many calories and are either obese or at risk for obesity.
Obesity occurs when the body is carrying too much fat in proportion to height, muscle tone, and skeleton size. In the last decade, the Centers for Disease Control reported that more than one third of adults, ages 65-74 were obese.
The mechanisms of overeating
In general, people overeat because they don’t feel full after a small meal. So it pays to know what makes us feel full. It starts with the vagus nerve that connects to the stomach to the brain. When food fills the stomach, the stomach walls expand. This triggers the vagus nerve to tell the brain that the stomach is full now.
But the vagus nerve works with other mechanisms that also tell us when to stop. When recently consumed food reaches the intestines, fullness hormones are released. This, again, tells the brain, “we’re satisfied now.” But, there can be a lag between eating and experiencing that sensation of satisfaction. The brain needs time to catch up. That’s why people overeat. They don’t give their brains time to send the fullness signal.
But the brain sends out another line of inquiry to our pleasure sensors, asking, “Did you enjoy that meal?” If the answer is “no,” compulsive eating can occur. Often, people don’t enjoy eating because they are on social media or watching television instead of savoring their food.
What does mindful eating look like?
Mindful eating is what it sounds like it is: paying attention to your food and excluding all other distractions. But Americans are so used to eating on the run and multitasking with food that we may need some pointers for slowing down. Here are some things that Harvard Medical School recommends for guaranteeing a slow meal:
- Set the stage for a meal. Use the dining room or set a really nice table in the kitchen, with a cloth napkin, flatware, and maybe use the good china.
- Turn off the television, close the laptop, and put your phone somewhere that you won’t be tempted to pick it up while dining.
- If the phone rings, let it go to voicemail.
- Set a timer to make sure that you take at least twenty minutes to eat.
- Chew each bite thirty seconds.
- Put down your fork between bites.
- Savor every bite. Think about your food rather than planning the rest of your day or reminiscing about last night’s television round up.
Senior care can help
If your parent is obese or at risk for obesity, mindful eating may help her lose weight. Senior care professionals, who come to the homes of aging adults and help them with basic chores, can provide some gentle encouragement, if your senior chooses to try mindful eating. Your senior care pro can help your parents set the table, provide companionship at meal time, and help them achieve their weight loss goals.
If you or an aging loved-one is considering Senior Care in Bethesda, MD please contact the caring staff at Just Divine Home Care Agency today at (301) 219-1585.