Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Mindful Eating

Have you ever eaten when you weren’t actually hungry? Or sat down for a meal and before you even realized your plate was empty? Or maybe turned on the TV and before you know it the bag of chips or cookies was half empty? If you have ever experienced this, think back, did you taste the food that was going into your mouth? These are prime example of mindless eating.

The concept behind mindful eating is simply paying attention to what you are putting into your body. Mindful eating can help improve your relationship with food, improve your diet, and your overall self esteem. It will help you focus on the aromas, flavors, and textures so you can really enjoy your foods. It also helps you focus in on your satiety cues, which can help with portion control. 

Mindful eating can also help you identify certain food triggers (specific foods, emotions, or places). These triggers may encourage bad eating habits or negative feelings towards foods and being aware of them is the first step to making a change.

Mindful Eating 101:
  1. Eat healthy food that you enjoy
·        Flavorful food doesn’t have to be loaded with fat and sodium, but it should be something that you are looking forward to tasting! Satisfaction comes not only from the quantity of food, but also the quality!
  1. Be mindful of your portions
·        First of all, you don’t have to finish everything on your plate. This is especially true when eating out; portions simply are too big and set you up to overeat.
·        Ask yourself how hungry you are before you serve yourself. Take what you think a reasonable portion is and re-evaluate as you go through the meal. If you are still hungry after you have eaten (and maybe waited a few minutes), then serve yourself more. Maybe all you need is a side salad, a piece of fruit, or a glass of milk!
  1. Set aside time to eat
·        I don’t mean in a car, standing up, or in front of the TV. I mean setting aside 20-30 minutes for your meal, at a table with few distractions.
  1. Take your time
·        For many people, eating fast means eating more. Take your time with your meal and you may realize that you don’t need as large of a portion to be satisfied.
·        Have a glass of water with each meal and take sips throughout the meal.
·        Set your fork down in between bites to help slow you down.

  1. Notice how you feel after your meal
·        You should be at a comfortable fullness, not hungry, but not overly full. (This may take some practice if you are used to eating large portions or overeating on a regular basis). If you overate, that’s ok, just be aware of what you could have done differently to prevent it in the future.

  1. Be aware of snack attacks
·        Snacking can be a part of a healthy diet or it can sabotage your diet. If well planned, they can help prevent overindulging at mealtime. Choose a healthy carbohydrate and some protein for a satisfying healthy snack!
·        If you have healthy snacks around and limit the unhealthy ones, then you will be more likely to choose the healthy ones. (Think fruit, whole grains, non-fat yogurt, vegetables, hummus, cheese)

  1. Being mindful of mindless eating
·        It’s obvious that there will be times when you have to eat on the run, but just be aware. For example: You recognize that eating a sandwich in the car in mindless eating, but it’s a better option than a bag of potato chips!

I highly recommend the book “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink. It includes examples of food and environment experiments in regards to portion size, appetite, and hunger. I really enjoyed it and I think you will too!

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