Our theme this week is Marvelous Mindful Eating. We will chat about what mindful eating is, why it’s beneficial, and how to implement it into your daily routine.
Most of us would rank eating as one of life’s top daily pleasures. But sometimes our days can be so fast paced we don’t even have time to enjoy our food, let alone sit down to eat a proper meal. Today’s society multi-tasks so much, our #1 preferred food item is the sandwich for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! Unfortunately, that can lead to eating mindlessly, but we can change that. By taking the time to check in with ourselves and practicing mindful eating, we can help prevent overeating, increase our overall satisfaction, and even improve blood sugar management.
When you practice mindful eating, you are also practicing a form of mindful meditation. Building on what we learned in week 1, we know meditation is a technique that helps us reduce our stress levels. If we’re currently experiencing a state of high stress, mindful eating can help reduce that stress. If you eat more mindfully, you’re more likely to notice when you’re over or under eating in response to stress triggers. This can be a signal to work on addressing those triggers or making time for self-care, meditation or other stress management technique we learned in week 1.
Mindful eating can also help you not sabotage your healthy eating efforts since you’ll notice when stress is affecting your eating habits and get back on track.
Most of us eat on a regular schedule, but do you ever ask yourself if you’re actually hungry when mealtimes arrive? If you aren’t truly hungry, you don’t have to eat, even if the clock says it’s time for a meal. On the flip-side, there should be no guilt in honoring your body’s hunger signals, even if it isn’t “time to eat.”
Many of us grew up hearing our parents say “clean your plate” or “don’t waste food.” These aren’t necessarily bad messages, but they can promote mindless eating. If you always clean your plate, are you really eating because you’re hungry for everything that’s in front of you, or are you only doing it for the sake of cleaning your plate? Halfway through your next meal, ask yourself, “am I hungry for the rest of this?” Take a pause to really feel how full or hungry you are. If this feels challenging, it may be easier if you serve yourself a smaller portion initially. You may find that the amount in that first serving was enough to satisfy you, or that you only want a small amount more. If you are out to eat, you could ask for a to-go box as soon as your plate hits the table. Restaurant portions are often larger than what we would eat at home, so immediately removing some of it from the plate can help us stay in tune with our true hunger, especially if we tend to keep eating until the food is gone.
When you are checking in on your hunger or fullness, it can be helpful to use a scale and assign a number to how you feel before and after eating. When you start eating, aim for a feeling around 3 or 4. When you check in on your fullness, aim to be at a 6 or 7. If you wait to eat until you are extremely hungry (1 or 2), you may accidentally overeat and then end up so full you feel sick! When you are feeling that hungry, you may be more likely to overeat high calorie foods to feel satisfied, rather than a well balanced meal or snack.
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When you start feeling hungry, ask yourself what sounds good. Eating a salad may be good for your health, but if you’re eating a salad in place of something you would much rather eat, you’ll likely find yourself craving what you really wanted later on, anyway. It’s important to balance good nutrition with food you enjoy. The good news is that so many nutritious foods out there actually taste good! Here at Brook we promote both healthy eating AND enjoying your food.
This may seem like a challenging idea. After all, watching TV or movies and eating seem to go hand-in-hand. In fact, many of us immediately pull out our smartphones if we are eating a meal out on our own. Research done on this subject shows that mixing screens with our meal leads to a ‘dulling’ in our perception of hunger and fullness cues. In other words, we stop paying attention to whether or not we are getting full when we watch while munching, which can lead to overeating. If you tend to watch a show or surf the internet while you eat, consider ways to do so less often. Try sharing a meal with a friend or co-worker (conversation doesn’t seem to dull our fullness cues), or just focus in on the pleasure and taste of the food in front of you for a bit. If you must grab your phone, use it to chat with us about mindful eating!
Being mindful is all about being in the present moment. When eating, take the time to really be aware of both your surroundings and your food. Make meals intentional by plating up your food and sitting down to eat (no eating over the sink!). Limit distractions by silencing your phone. When eating, think about how the food tastes and how it feels to be eating it. What flavors and textures are in that meal? Does eating it spark some emotion?
When you first start practicing mindful eating, it may be helpful to use this checklist as a guide. Over time, you may begin to do many of these things naturally.
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on July 8th, 20202. Kelsea is a Registered Dietitian with her Master's degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA, and is one of our Health Coaches.