WELLNESSFEBRUARY 24, 2014

do you eat mindfully? learn how.

Modern life doesn’t lend itself well to being mindful. With television, smart phones, computers, busy schedules, and mile long to-do lists, we find ourselves constantly on the move, surrounded with noise, and trying to keep up. Usually, the inevitable sacrifice that happens from busy lives is self-care. Despite being essential for a balanced life, eating well, exercise, and stress reducers (like meditation, yoga, deep breathing) often give way to make room for deadlines and appointments.

Talking on the phone on your way to the bus, listening to music while driving, and even watching television while exercising are all activities that prevent us from being fully present in the moment. It may be stretch to imagine your long commute home without the radio, but I bet you could see some room for improvement when it comes to mindfulness around mealtime. We’ve all been guilty eating food straight out of the refrigerator, scarfing down fast food in the car, or finishing off a pint of ice cream while staring at the TV screen. Why do we do this? A common reason I’ve found myself eating bowls (and bowls) of cereal while staring at the computer screen is to numb myself from my feelings or the stress of the day. Maybe I was angry, sad, bored, or overwhelmed – and turned to eating mindlessly to escape the heaviness or procrastinate.

The thing about it is, you may feel soothed you for the first few bites. But it fades quickly. So you eat more and more to prevent getting on with whatever you have to do or feel whatever it is you need to get through. And what usually follows are the strong pangs of guilt, regret, or an upset stomach. These mindless eating benders usually become cyclical in nature – and they can pretty difficult to stop. The problem is that our habits around using food to ‘zone out’ have usually been happening for so long that we might not even realize it. Our cravings for foods can so intertwined with our emotions, that we’ve lost touch with what it is our body really needs at any given time. Will that hunk of chocolate cake really help you forget the day? Will vegging out with a bag of chips help you have the hard conversation you’ve been putting off?

It is a misconception that mindless eating always revolves around junk food. It can be just as ‘mindless’ to always have salad for dinner – even in freezing temperatures – just because you were told it’s the best option to eat. Maybe your body would really like something warm, comforting, and nourishing? Did you even check in with what you really want? Or just with what you think you should be doing?

I loved this paragraph from this 2012 New York Time’s Article, “Mindful Eating as Food for Thought”.

“Mindful eating is not a diet, or about giving up anything at all. It’s about experiencing food more intensely — especially the pleasure of it. You can eat a cheeseburger mindfully, if you wish. You might enjoy it a lot more. Or you might decide, halfway through, that your body has had enough. Or that it really needs some salad.”

When you eat mindfully, you are connected to the moment, as well as to what’s on your plate. You notice smells, flavors, textures, tastes, and other subtleties that get lost when inhaling your food with reckless abandon. You also begin to tune in with what’s going on in your mind and body before you turn to food. Slowing down and fully experiencing your meals will help you to cue into your hunger and sense of fullness before overeating. You will begin to trust your cravings, have newfound intuition and comfort in your body.

To begin to experience more mindful eating, start by experimenting with the 3 simple tips below. 

If you’re wanting to dive deeper into the practice, I will be teaching a ‘Mindful Eating Workshop’ with a focus on creating a new relationship with food on March 6 at Enerspace Chicago. You can get more details and sign up here.

1. Pull Up a Chair 

Stop eating on the go – and make a point to sit at a table while eating meals and snacks. By sitting down, you will eat slower, and tune into your tastes and hunger. You will likely full up faster. You get bonus points for eating without the television or computer.

2. Dish it Out 

Stop eating straight from a bag, box, or container. Spend a little extra time portioning a small amount into a bowl or plate. Portioning food into a bowl allows you to SEE the amount you are eating, which often leads you to eating less.

3. Take a Breath 

If you are particularly prone to mindless eating, start taking 3 deep breaths before digging in. This will help signal your mind to connect to eating, and immediately creates mindfulness. Breathing is also calming, which helps slow down your nervous system and better tune into when you are full.

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