Eat It, Eat It Well
You may be wondering what is all this talk about mindful eating? Why is it important? And how is it different from the way you already eat? These are common questions. I want to share with you the many benefits of mindful eating and maybe you will want to try it yourself! It is one of those experiences that if you only read about it, you do not really grasp the true essence of the act. Below is an image from Today’s Dietician that illustrates the components of mindful eating.
But what I really appreciate about mindful eating is how is it is linked to our emotional health. I mean how and what do we eat when we feel like crap? And then when we select foods which do not serve our body well do we pay attention to how we feel? This cycle continues like summer tires on an icy road….it just spins over here and then spins over there - possibly leading to feelings of hopeless, guilt, disappointment and fatigue. Being able to distinguish between emotional and physical hunger is a valuable mind-body connection.
It seems that society has accepted this evolution of multi-eating or some may call it mindless eating; meaning we eat as we drive, we eat as we write reports, we eat as we have teleconference meetings. I have been guilty of it. Work is busy and we have deadlines to meet, office issues to resolve and stopping to eat feels like a waste of limited time. I get it, been there. However, we can find practical ways to implement mindful eating as part of taking part of our emotional well-being.
How does this work?
First of all, start with one day where you can experience eating the first 15 minutes of a meal mindfully. That means, without any other distractions. True connection with your thoughts attached to eating, your sensations of eating, what you choose to eat and how you eat. I remember I introduced this concept to a team of Pharmacists and I had them mentally reflect on some of these questions:
Can you look, smell, taste, feel of the food you’re eating like it is your first time trying it?
Are most of your food choices healthy?
Are there lasting physical effects throughout the day after you eat certain foods?
How full do you feel before, during and after eating.
What are your main emotions during and after eating.
Where did your food come from, what might have been the food items journey before it reached your plate?
By slowing down and mentally answering these questions it can serve as a form of meditation and as a form of gratitude. With time you can increase trying to eat this way to a complete meal and then perhaps multiple meals in a week, slowly increasing and noticing. Remember if we do not make time to implement small, but important practical changes in our health regime we may be forced to give up a lot of time to manage our illnesses. Your Time Is NOW.
Mindful eating has many benefits here are a few to consider before trying it out.
It increases your ability to recognize physical hunger and your cues to being full. In other words, you will be able to distinguish between emotional and actual, physical hunger. Comfort eating is a common attempt to coping in today’s high-stressed environment. Have you ever caught yourself reaching for something to eat even though you were not necessarily hungry? Having the ability to observe, notice and stop autopilot behaviors can have an enormous impact on our overall health.
By building a relationship with your triggers, you can create a space between them leading to a more mindful response. That gives you the time and freedom to actually choose your response, instead of being impulsive.
Chronic exposure to stress may also play a large role in overeating and the development of obesity. As I mentioned above there is a vicious cycle between our mood and food which can make us feel stuck. This can lead to weight gain and/or other health conditions.
The vast majority of studies agree that mindful eating helps you lose weight by changing eating behaviors and reducing stress. So why wait to implement this into your life?
Please share your experiences with mindful eating. We would love to hear from you.