The Gift of Mindful Eating
Tuesday, January 26th, 2010
Are you so busy that you multi-task in all areas of your life, including your eating habits? Functioning at maximum level, how many of us have eaten lunch in front of the computer or in the car, skipped a meal or inhaled something that our taste buds did not even catch? Is your schedule packed with meetings, chores, deadlines and social obligations? Have you ever found yourself in front of the candy dish at work without even remembering walking to it? Maybe you actually do sit down and have a meal, but you’re so preoccupied while eating that you still don’t taste the food.
If that is the case, mindfulness can be a wonderful tool to begin using in your life. Mindfulness is the opposite of being on autopilot. In today’s busy, information-loaded world, multi-tasking has become the accepted norm and eating is no exception. However, mindless and unaware eating can have an effect on us, both psychologically and physically—and eventually takes a toll on our body and overall quality of life.
More and more research is showing that mindfulness can play a role in managing stress, depression, anxiety and medical conditions such as heart disease, obesity and disordered eating. The beauty of mindfulness is that it is simple and available to you at all times.
What is Mindful Eating?
As babies we eat instinctively—in other words, we eat when we’re hungry. Over time most of us train ourselves to eat in response to certain emotional or environmental cues, which have us reaching for food even if we’re not hungry. Mindful eating is about understanding why and how you eat, and it means approaching eating with patience, acceptance and trust.
To practice mindful eating, do a quick assessment of how hungry you are before you start to chow down on the food in front of you, whether it be a bag of Doritos or a gourmet meal. Remember to neutrally observe yourself as you eat and acknowledge how full you are when you are done eating. You always have a choice in how much you eat.
Tips for Mindful Eating*
1. Arrive. Come to your meal and eat in a specific place. Acknowledge that you are eating.
2. Check in. Ask the simple question: Am I hungry and if so, how hungry? This helps you learn to eat until you are full, rather than until the food is gone.
3. Slow down. Take the time to eat and appreciate the food. The entire experience can be completely different from when you’re eating quickly.
4. Be curious. Think about the food you eat and where it comes from. A healthy dose of gratitude for each grain of rice can affect us.
5. Savor. Take pleasure in eating. Food is not just about calories or restricting them. Rather, it is about pausing and soaking it all in.
*Reference: The Center for Mindful Eating
Mindful hunger checks allow you to make choices with awareness. Notice the sensation of satiety or fullness. How does it feel to be overly full versus two-thirds full? When it comes to healthy eating, satiety cues, such as feeling a slight stretch to the stomach, feeling energetic and feeling satisfied, are just as important as hunger cues like hunger pain, irritability and poor concentration.
We all have unique triggers for mindless eating; acknowledging personal triggers (fatigue, boredom, watching TV) and coming up with an alternative can minimize mindless emotional eating. To get more tips on Mindful Eating and learn how I used mindfulness in my own life read the full article as featured in ABCDlady Wellness Section.
The Power to Transform
Mindful eating helps uncover parts of ourselves that we usually bypass as we rush through our day focusing on either the past or the future. Mindfulness is about the present, and mindful eating is the opportunity to enjoy your eating experience at a new level.
Consider mindfulness as you start 2010 and see what personal discoveries come your way. I eventually realized I didn’t like sweets as much as I enjoy crunchy and light savories. Who knew? I discovered this preference once I gave myself permission to slow down.
Ultimately mindful eating is about your life attitude. Do you choose to be present in the moment and enjoy the food that nourishes you? The gift of mindful eating is to give you a richer experience. Over time, the practice of mindfulness seeps into the rest of your life. Enjoy this New Year’s gift and share your experience with us.