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Olwen Anderson's Blog

What those meal replacement shakes can't provide

Saturday, January 21, 2017
You’ve probably heard of meal replacement shakes, the nutrition and weight loss ‘solutions’ promoted for people so busy they can’t stop to eat. You might also have heard of complete meal replacements like Soylent, a manufactured drink of nutrients designed to save you from ever having to pick up a saucepan, knife or chopping board again.

On the surface, the meal replacement shake seems an effortless way to shift your breakfast from carbohydrate-based (toast, cereal) towards a healthier protein base. It’s this shift in macronutrient balance that can accelerate weight loss, certainly. But those shakes can’t provide the emotional benefits of eating real food.

Some brave souls have tried living on those powdered meal replacements and wrote about their experience. I think one of them, Josh Helton, put it best when describing what he missed most from food: “The process of eating solid food creates space, breathing, and slowness. It creates perspective”.

So although meal replacement shakes may seem to offer you extra time, it could add to your sense of stress and overwhelm too. For example, imagine you catapult yourself out of bed, grab a meal replacement shake, concentrate to get through peak hour traffic safely. Juggle the demands and priorities of work and eat at your desk. Rush home through more heavy traffic. How stressed are you likely to be without having paused all day? How available will you be for your relationships?

Compare this with a day where you deliberately sit down at the breakfast table with your family. Then take a break at lunchtime away from your desk to enjoy a salad. Sure, you’ve had to put a little extra effort in, and there will be more dishes to wash; but how are you feeling emotionally? How are your relationships with your partner and your family as a result of making this extra effort? 

Along with real food, you get the chance to stop and think. To connect with others around the table. To enjoy the sensory input of the sight, smell and taste of food. Eating is one of the great pleasures of life. There’s the sensory input of the smell and taste of food. The comforting energetic warmth of home-made dishes. 

If you’re considering meal replacement shakes, consider also whether this way of eating really reflects what you want out of life – or are you willing to make the extra effort, so that food becomes a part of nurturing you and your relationships?

If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy 'How Mindful Eating Can Improve Your Health'

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