WANT TO KICK THE BAD EATING HABITS!? EAT MINDFULLY!
How many of you have savored every experience of your vacation or the details of your wedding or the birth of your first child? What about your most memorable decadent food? How many of you remember the last dessert you consumed? Now think about this: How many of you remember what you ate for your last meal? How about yesterday’s lunch? If you can’t remember, then you are most likely not eating mindfully.
Let’s take a look at what eating mindfully means. Eating mindfully is savoring every aspect of the experience.
It encompasses the “why, when, what, how and how much” when eating.
Eating mindfully doesn’t mean eating perfectly or eating perfectly healthy! You might eat for pleasure, convenience, or a special occasion like an office party, or you may even eat if you’re not hungry. You might choose “comfort foods” during times of stress or use a treat to reward yourself. You may even go so far to indulge and feel sick afterwards. Although these seem to be extremes they are actually all part of balanced eating. When you’re mindful and in charge of the decisions you make you are consciously aware and accepting of what you are doing but when the mindful eating balance becomes out of whack, what comes next has many of us feeling confused, overwhelmed and even a little “weighed” down.
For starters, when the balanced eating becomes out of control, you are potentially harming your body.
- You may be eating too much, too fast not spending the time required to chew your food and assist with digestion. You sent too much too quickly to your stomach and shorted out your system. You didn’t give it a chance to tell you “I’m full.”
- You may be the multi-tasking-eater and forget the enjoyment altogether, which in turn causes you to want more.
- You may eat to soothe an emotion creating a pattern of emotional eating. And emotional eating patterns can lead to food addiction.
As these eating patterns become “stuck” they can cause weight gain that become “stuck” too.
Does the aforementioned best describe your pattern of eating?
Based on the information and research by the Center for Mindful Eating, when you ignore your instinctual needs to eat and instead eat in response to emotions, you are not living in the present moment. You are ignoring your body’s instincts. Instead of eating to live you now engage in what is called living to eat. When we live to eat we engage in eating practices that bypass eating for health and instead eat strictly for pleasure.
When you eat any for reason other than hunger, the distraction and pleasure are merely temporary, almost like a high. Due to that reaction, you have to eat more to feel better, thus feeding the cycle, which can consequently become food addiction.
The tools associated with Mindful Eating practices can liberate individuals from senseless, emotional and overeating cycles.
First of all we need to understand that living a healthy lifestyle isn’t about being in control; it’s about being in charge as Dr. Michelle May, founder of Am I Hungry.com states. When you feel the need to control your eating, she believes, all you are doing is subscribing to rules that are rigid, confusing, or tainted with negative messages.
So, how can we break the cycle above and incorporate Mindful Eating practices into our daily lives?
Let’s take a look at the Principals of mindfulness:
- Mindfulness is focusing, non-judgmentally, in the present moment
- Mindfulness encompasses both what our internal and external environments are telling us.
- Mindfulness is being aware of our thoughts, emotions and physical sensations.
- Mindfulness cultivates the possibility of freeing ourselves from reactionary, habitual patterns of thinking, feeling and acting.
- Mindfulness promotes balance, choice, centeredness and acceptance of “what is”.
How can one practice Mindful Eating? The steps below guide us how:
- Allow yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation by respecting your own inner wisdom. Ask yourself “Is this a healthy choice for my body?” If not, savor each bite and minimize the negative impact to the body.
- Use all your senses in choosing to eat food. We feel “good” when we consume foods that are both satisfying and nourishing.
- Acknowledge your responses to food without judgment. For instance, if you are traveling you may have to consume foods that are not necessarily healthy. Choose foods that serve a purpose to “nourish” while understanding they may not be the best options and be “OK” with that.
- Become aware of physical hunger (I have hunger pains) and satiety cues (my body is telling me I’m done) to guide your decisions to begin and end eating.
When embarking on a Mindful Eating practice we:
- Acknowledge that there is no right or wrong way to eat and understand there is no “norm”.
- Accept that our eating experience is unique as we are unique individuals.
- Direct our attention to eating on a moment-by-moment basis.
- Gain awareness of choices that support health and well-being and don’t worry about the “perfect food” or “diet”.
- Become aware of the interconnection of earth, living beings and cultural practices and the impact of food choices on those systems. For instance, we can try to eat sustainably and minimize our footprint on this Earth. We can think about what went into growing, raising and harvesting this food we choose to put in our mouth.
TIPS on how to maintain healthy blood sugar levels:
- Vitamin E: mustard greens, swiss chard, spinach, kale and collards, almonds, papaya and kiwi, red peppers, broccoli, olive oil, wheatgrass, organic wheat germ oil
- Iron: lentils, beets, mung bean sprouts, parsley, sesame and sunflower seeds, almonds
- Folate (B-9): green leafy vegetables, beans and legumes, endive
- B-6: beans, whole grains (sprouted), pistachios, garlic, sunflower and sesame seeds, hazelnuts, basil, chives, turmeric
When you begin to incorporate Mindfulness when eating it slows you down, gets you to think and best of all allows your to love, enjoy and cherish both the food you are eating and yourself!
Article written by Laura A. Bushey, MAT, Certified Health Educator and Personal Holistic Chef. To find out more about Laura click here.
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