Practicing Mindfulness Can Help Improve Your Eating Habits
Whether you’re working, eating or exercising, mindfulness plays a key role in self-awareness. Mindfulness is “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something,” or “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations.”
Essentially, mindfulness is characterized by uninterrupted focus on any activity and is often used as a therapeutic technique. Eliminating external and internal distractions enables one to focus on only their thoughts and emotions.
Research shows many health benefits to practicing mindfulness, including decreased stress; increased energy; enhanced creativity; better focus; reducing brain chatter; creating better connections with people and surroundings; and allowing for better understanding of pain.
Studies also show a relationship between mindfulness and eating behavior. When practicing mindfulness, individuals experience an enhanced sense of self-control and pay closer attention to fullness cues. Mindful eating implies awareness of the senses, body and mind while eating. This allows people to focus on the act of eating: observing taste and texture, recognizing unconscious eating habits and tuning in to satiety triggers — feelings of fullness and satisfaction while eating.
THE CENTER FOR MINDFUL EATING DEFINES MINDFUL EATING AS:
• Allowing yourself to be aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities available through food preparation and consumption by respecting your own inner wisdom.
• Choosing to eat food that is both pleasing to you and nourishing to your body by using all your senses to explore, savor and taste.
• Acknowledging responses to food (likes, neutral or dislikes) without judgment.
• Learning to be aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decision to begin and stop eating.
SOMEONE WHO EATS MINDFULLY:
• Acknowledges there is no right or wrong way to eat, but varying degrees of awareness surrounding the experience of food.
• Accepts that his eating experiences are unique. Is an individual who, by choice, directs his awareness to all aspects of food and eating on a moment-by-moment basis.
• Is an individual who looks at the immediate choices and direct experiences associated with food and eating, not to the distant health outcome of that choice.
• Is aware of and reflects on the effects caused by unmindful eating.
• Experiences insight about how he can act to achieve specific health goals as he becomes more attuned to the direct experience of eating and feelings of health.
•Becomes aware of the interconnection of Earth, living beings and cultural practices and the impact his food choices has on those systems.
STOMACH HUNGER VS. HEAD HUNGER?
Eating mindfully requires pausing before taking a bite or sip, whether it be a snack, meal or beverage. This can be before you open the refrigerator at your office or grab the nearest candy bar in line at Old Navy!
Here are some questions to ask yourself before your eating or drinking commences:
• Am I eating because I am hungry or bored? Stressed? Angry? Depressed?
• Am I passing the time during the work day rather than focusing on my tasks?
• Am I celebrating a positive situation such as a promotion at work with food?
• Am I consoling a disappointment by giving myself permission to eat freely?
• Is my stomach growling and blood sugar dropping? Does my body need nourishment (stomach hunger), or am I looking for a distraction (head hunger)?
Stacy’s Strategies For Mindful Eating
Summer is an excellent time to focus on mindful eating strategies. Try these suggestions to help you focus on mindful eating:
• Consider taking a walk to blow off steam or a power nap to refresh yourself and renew your mind.
• Practice mindfulness through meditation, yoga and physical exercise.
• Eat slowly, taking note of your food’s many flavors and textures. Chew thoughtfully, reflecting on the food’s journey from farm to table. While you eat, pay close attention to your body’s signals. When you feel full, put your fork down and pause. This mindfulness tip will prevent overeating and potential weight gain.
• Instead of aimlessly reaching into a bag or container, serve food on a plate. Doing so allows you to clearly see what you are putting into your body.
• Disconnect from technology when eating a snack or a meal. Put your phone down, close your laptop and turn off the TV when eating. When distracted by screens and eating on auto-pilot, you are more inclined to indulge. Use this time to appreciate your food and connect with the people you are sharing a meal with.
• Use technology-based apps to assist in your mindful eating goals, such as: In The Moment — Mindful Eating; Mindful Eating Tracker; Eat, Chew, Rest; Headspace; and Calm.
Stacy Goldberg is a nationally recognized nutritional consultant, registered nurse and the CEO of Savorfull (savorfull.com), a Detroit-based company that sources healthy, allergen-friendly foods and provides nutrition-consulting. Savorfull is part of the Quicken Loans Family of Companies.