5.55pm Is The Most Stressful Time Of The Day For Mums. Here's How To Beat Meal Time Stress

28/06/2011 17:04 | Updated 22 May 2015
5.55pm is the most stressful time of the day for mums. Here's how to beat meal time stressGetty

We've all been there; five-to-six and there's a pot of pasta boiling (over) on the hob, tomorrow's packed lunch half made on the side, someone trying (and failing) to mix their own orange squash and an imminent homework/Lego-building crisis to be resolved before bedtime. Throw-in a few unanswered work emails and voila! It's a domestic car crash.

And I can't be the only mum who shovels down her own meal in the midst of this teatime chaos, paying absolutely no attention to what she's actually stuffing in her cakehole...

The news that 5:55pm is the most stressful time of the day for mums is no surprise. 7.15pm (read: bath time protests and exhaustion-fuelled meltdowns) came in second, with 8.45pm (bedtime – allegedly) coming third.

The survey of 2,000 mums (commissioned by found that school run time at 8.20am (more like an 8.40am sprint for us) is the fourth most stressful point in a mum's day.

Half of mothers questioned said their kids refuse to eat their dinners or complain about what's on offer, and a similar number confess to serving unhealthy food at mealtimes because they don't have time to cook from scratch – I'm guilty as charged on both counts.

Faced with this culinary kerfuffle, is it any wonder that our own dietary needs are on the backburner? We bolt down snacks while we're on the go and barely notice what we're filling our faces with when we do get chance to sit down for five minutes. (As I type, I'm ramming down two hastily-fried eggs - dripping yolk on my space bar in the process – before dashing to a school meeting, quite probably with indigestion.)

And according to the US-based Center for Mindful Eating this rushed consumption of food during a stress-heavy day could be the reason why millions of mums are not at a healthy weight.

Evidence suggests that not thinking about what we eat can lead to the consumption of an additional 200 calories a day, and pile 2lbs onto the waistline each year.

"Busy mums, putting their kids first, aren't thinking about their own mealtimes," says Megrette Fletcher, co-founder of the Center for Mindful Eating. "On a plane, we're told to place the oxygen mask on ourselves first, then attend to people that need our assistance; we can't help people well when we're suffering ourselves, and that's the case in any situation."

Based on the Buddhist concept of mindfulness, Fletcher's eating philosophy involves deliberately paying attention - noticing the colours, smells, flavours and textures of food, chewing slowly and removing distractions.

"Mindful eating is a simple but powerful tool which can change the way we think about food and how much we enjoy it," Fletcher claims. "By adopting a more mindful approach, it's possible to improve overall health, happiness, body image and even self-esteem."

The concept is already popular Stateside, and this month Fletcher helped to launch the Kallo Food Academy, promoting mindful eating in the UK.

Fletcher says: "For many mothers, frantic rushing creates stress which is linked to many health problems, including obesity.

"The purpose of eating mindfully is to be aware of this stress. Awareness allows you to change either the environment surrounding the meal, or the food itself. This awareness helps parents and their children eat more healthily and enjoy their meals more.

"Steps I advise include creating a pleasant place to eat and including your children in meal preparation. When eating on the go, take 10 minutes out to sit and eat the food in a more relaxed manner.

"And consider playing games at mealtimes; you could choose foods that crunch and have a crunching contest. Anything that slows you down and makes you think about what you're eating."

Fletcher's concept isn't rocket science, but actually stopping for a second to think about the way we're treating our own bodies, as well as looking after everybody else's, might just help the whole family to function better – as well as benefiting our waistlines.

Now, excuse me while I clean my yolky keyboard and chop some carrot sticks for tonight's crunching competition. It's scheduled for 5:55pm.

The Kallo Food Academy's top 5 steps to mindful eating

1. Take pleasure in planning meals and snacks and buy ingredients in advance to make what you've planned. This helps you resist eating whatever's lying around.

2. Enjoy preparing food creatively; even if you're just making sandwiches, make them pleasing to look at by adding a garnish for colour.

3. Allow at least 20 minutes to sit and focus on your food without distractions - no TV, computer, phone or newspaper.

4. Lay a proper place for yourself to eat with a napkin and a nice plate – you could even add flowers.

5. If you eat meals when you're absolutely ravenous, you'll be tempted to gorge. Aim to feel a little hungry, but not famished, at mealtimes.


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