Mindful Eating

Reflect on your typical day. Is it filled with stress, tension and emotional eating? It seems there are never enough hours in the day to accomplish everything that needs to be done. Exercise? Planning meals? Fahgettaboudit! There’s barely enough time for sleep, much less planning ahead for quality meals and exercise. If this sounds all too familiar, get out of the rat race and learn a new way of doing life. It’s called Mindfulness. Combine mindfulness with the experience of eating and you have “Mindful Eating,” which is what we talked about in class this week.

Most of us regularly practice mindless eating—eating on the go, skipping meals, eating in front of the TV or computer. We eat while completely disconnected from the experience. In contrast, Mindful Eating is a practice that allows individuals to plug back into their own internal cues for hunger and satiety so that they can understand when to eat and when to stop. With Mindful Eating, there are no good and bad foods, and there is no one right or wrong way to eat. Simply put, mindful eating is eating with intention and attention. Michelle May, MD describes mindful eating as eating with the intention of caring for yourself and eating with the attention necessary for noticing and enjoying your food and its effects on your body. Can you imagine eating in way that supports health, yet is also satisfying and rich? Perhaps you’re among the millions of Americans trapped in a cycle of yo-yo dieting, fueled by guilt and the promise of tomorrow when you’ll get “back on track.” Mindful Eating provides a way out of that vicious dieting cycle by helping you understand the root causes of your unwanted eating habits

What can Mindful Eating do for you?

  • Help reduce overeating/binge eating
  • Lose body fat
  • Help remove negative, automatic food habits (like eating while watching TV)
  • Promote a peaceful eating relationship with food
  • Enjoy food that is satisfying
  • Improve digestion
  • Help change thoughts and behaviors around food. Instead of reacting, you learn how to respond
  • Help reduce anxious thoughts about food

Practicing Mindful Eating can help you plug back into your body’s internal cues so you know when you are hungry and when you are full, but there’s a catch. Most of us have spent years, if not nearly an entire lifetime learning how to ignore those signals. We come from a “clean your plate” club where not finishing everything on your plate might be considered rude, or worse, wasteful. We’ve also spent years eating food-like substances that are high in sugar, salt and chemicals, while simultaneously being low in nutrients. I can’t prove it, but I’m quite sure this combination scrambles the satiety regulating signals to the brain. Mindful Eating may be the cure to heal our relationship with food, but it isn’t magic, and it certainly isn’t a new practice. Mindful Eating requires lots of practice and patience, but it’s worth the effort. If you truly want to improve your eating habits and enjoy vibrant health, I encourage you to find ways to commit to more Mindful Meals.

Here’s some practical ways to get started:

  • Practice being more mindful in all aspects of your life
  • Practice understanding the difference between hunger and craving
  • Simply notice and acknowledge your emotions when you eat. How do you feel? Are you stressed? Sad? Happy?
  • Begin to eat using all your senses, paying attention to sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures
  • Commit to non-judgment. You are not a good person when you eat well, nor are you a bad person when you eat poorly
  • There are no bad or good foods, but engineered food-like substances may be addictive
  • Start small, perhaps with one mindful meal a week
  • Slow down your eating and take 20-30 minutes to finish a meal
  • Use chopsticks
  • Try eating with non-dominant hand
  • Eat until 80% full
  • Practice, and then practice some more

Mindful Eating can change your life, but not overnight. It may take time for you to listen to and trust your inner intuition when it comes to eating. Eating habits begin when we are very young and are quite firmly established by the time we are adults. I encourage you to begin your journey by visiting the following websites http://amihungry.com/ and http://thecenterformindfuleating.org/ Don’t wait. Start practicing today!

About the Author
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Weight Loss Coach specializing in lifestyle transformation