If you’ve ever polished off a bag of chips while watching your favorite Netflix show, you’ll be familiar with the practice of mindless eating. We all do it more than we realize or care to admit. What you may be less familiar with is the concept of Mindful eating, or more specifically, how Mindful eating can help you plug back in to your internal cues for hunger and satiety.
The body is incredible. It was designed to notify, or “cue” us to eat when we’re hungry, and cue us to stop eating when we’re full. It does this through the action of the nervous system and hormone messengers. Grehlin, for example, is a hormone secreted by the gut and it essentially yells, “hey, I’m hungry! Feed me now!” On the other hand, the hormone Leptin is secreted by adipose cells and its role is to whisper, “hey, I’m full now. Human, you may stop eating.” These are 2 of the more well-known hormone regulators of appetite and I share this with you to help you understanding that minding what you eat is more complex than simply exerting willpower. Sometimes your intention of mindfully eating only 1 cookie will be overridden by the brains executive decision to binge, since the parts of your brain involved in reward are powerful drivers of your eating behavior.
So what is Mindful Eating? Mindful eating is the practice (emphasis on the word “practice”) to consciously eat in way that nourishes you. Mindful Eating means that you focus your attention on the experiences involved with eating, free from any distractions. Mindful eating means you are fully present while eating. not driving, texting or watching TV. When you are consciously tuned in and aware, the idea is that you will be able to know when you are full. The reality, however, is more complex for two reasons: One, in our modern culture, it’s nearly impossible to be mindful every time we eat or drink (unless you happen to be a Buddhist Monk). Secondly, mindful eating doesn’t hold up too well when it comes to hyperpalatable foods that are high in sugar. Appetite regulation was designed to work perfectly for our ancestors, who ate whole, natural foods when food wasn’t always readily available. In our modern culture, processed food is ubiquitous. Whereas our ancestors faced periods of feast and famine, our modern lives are shaped by life-long relationships with junk food, in a constant state of feasting.
Modern Mindful Eating
This doesn’t mean we should abandon the practice of Mindful Eating, but we need to acknowledge its limitations. Mindful eating is an excellent way to free yourself from the guilt and shame involved in eating and dieting. The practice of Mindful Eating may look different for each person, but what is important is that we each take time to prepare our own meals and slow down when we’re eating. Get curious about your eating behaviors and pay attention. Your body is always talking to you. Are you listening?
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