Eating More Mindfully

Eating More Mindfully
by Elizabeth McMillan

It has been a long day at work, you come home and feel ravenous. You just want 20 minutes to yourself before picking up the kids from soccer. You sit down with a bag of chips to have a snack and poof, before it’s even time to pick them up the entire bag is gone. How many times does this happen to you?

Mindful eating is deliberately paying attention and being fully aware of hunger and satiety cues. The Center of Mindful Eating defines it as “allowing oneself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation by respecting your own inner wisdom.” To sum it up mindful eating is learning to pay attention. Instead of eating mindlessly, shoveling food into your mouth without tasting it, one starts to notice thoughts, feelings and sensations around food. Unfortunately, eating mindfully is much harder than a simple definition and takes years to practice.

There are several principals or intentions to eat mindfully. One of the first considerations is being aware without criticism or judgement. This can be one of the hardest both personally and outwardly. We are constantly judging ourselves and others partially around the food choices we make. For example, after a cheat day or a pizza binge we may judge ourselves negatively for those food choices. This causes a surge of negative emotions surrounding food.

Another consideration is paying full attention to the experience of eating and drinking. This means paying attention to the colors, smells, textures, flavors, temperature and sound of food. By paying attention we become aware of the experience that foods and drinks serves to the body. We realize where in the body we feel hunger and where we feel satisfaction. This will continue to allow us to pay attention to the mind and the emotions surrounding foods.

Thirdly, mindfulness encompasses both internal processes and external environments. Internally, this means asking oneself what these foods will do for me, how are they nourishing?  Externally this means focusing only on the food and drink you are consuming. This requires turning off the television, not eating lunch at a work desk, and becoming entirely engaged in only eating.

Finally, mindfulness promotes balance, choice, wisdom and acceptance. As mentioned before this may take years to accomplish. However, the benefits are outlasting and lifelong. One starts to actually taste food, to appreciate the nourishment that food provides and enjoy the benefits of eating.

The good news is that there are many tricks to engage in mindful eating daily. Here are a few to consider adding to your lifestyle.

  1. Chew food completely, 15 to 20 times per bite
  2. Feed yourself with non-dominant hand
  3. Eat with chopsticks
  4. Put your fork down between each bite
  5. Close your eyes with your first bite
  6. Put all food on a plate, including a handful of chips
  7. Sit at a table without the TV on, or computer in front of your, or any other distractions

The point of mindful eating is to slow down and appreciate food. By paying attention to how much and what we are consuming, the first benefit is that we stop overeating. Many of us overeat without even realizing it. Consider how can you start to incorporate mindful eating techniques into your daily life.

Elizabeth McMillan, CNS, LDN is a clinical nutritionist at Rose Wellness, in Oakton, VA.  For more information, visit RoseWellness.com.

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