Mindful Eating

Picture this… it’s been a long day, the kids are finally in bed, and it’s your first opportunity to just sit and relax.  The TV gets turned on and the cupboard gets raided.  An entire show is over… and so is the bag of chips, popcorn, M&Ms, or whatever!  Then the guilt sets in.  How did that happen??  You think to yourself “I’ll just skip breakfast tomorrow to make up for it.”  And the pattern continues the next day, and the next day, and… You get the picture.  This is a perfect example of “Mindless Eating” that affects a big part of the population.  Food in our country is so readily available that we don’t even think about what we’re doing while we’re eating.  Unfortunately, this can lead to disordered eating in both adolescent and adult populations.  Habits like this can also lead to serious diseases such as Diabetes, high blood pressure, and fatty liver disease.

So, I challenge you to consider the idea of “Mindful Eating.”  I came across this concept while researching about disordered eating, a topic I frequently discuss with nutrition patients.  First, let me clarify that disordered eating does not necessarily mean there is an eating disorder present.  To be labeled with an eating disorder there must be a number of signs/symptoms that fall under a narrow category.  Disordered eating is defined as “a wide range of irregular eating behaviors that do not warrant a diagnosis of a specific eating disorder.”  These patterns are often present because we’re not thinking about eating when we’re actually eating.

Here are a few tips adapted from a clinic in Australia that introduced me to the concept of “Mindful Eating.”

Being mindful is about focusing your attention and awareness on the present moment to help disconnect from habitual, unsatisfying, and harmful habits and behaviors.  Mindful eating, simply put, is the opposite of mindless eating.  The mindful eating approach employs strategies which can help change the way we respond to food, both physically and emotionally.  

  1. Being aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities of food preparation and consumption
  2. Choosing to eat food that is both pleasing and nourishing to the body by using your senses to explore, savor and taste (To all my nutrition patients: FUEL your body!)
  3. Acknowledging responses to food without judgement
  4. Being aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide decisions to start and stop eating
  5. Identifying personal triggers for mindless eating whether they are emotions, social pressures, or certain foods.

How do those concepts sound to you?  Relatively reasonable!  Living in a fast pace society doesn’t provide us the time to stop and think about what we’re doing.  The next time you sit down to a meal, take it all in: your surroundings, the way the way the food looks, the different smells and textures as you eat, the nutrients your body is so happily taking in, and the satiety you experience from fueling yourself.  Each time you do this you’ll be more likely to make healthier choices and truly enjoy your meal.  You work hard, you deserve it!

For more information about Mindful Eating, visit this website.  Scroll toward the bottom and click on Mindful Eating Fact Sheet.