As we enter another week of safety at home, one of the most challenging questions I’m hearing has to do with eating. Even though we’ve had several weeks to develop a new routine, the availability to grab a snack is just so tempting. I’d like to share some of the mindfulness techniques that you may find helpful.
“Mindful eating is not a diet. There are no menus or recipes. It is being more aware of your eating habits, the sensations you experience when you eat, and the thoughts and emotions that you have about food. It is more about how you eat than what you eat.” Susan Albers, eatingmindfully.com
It is so easy as we pass through the kitchen to grab a snack, take it to the room we are working in and eat. Sometimes it may be portioned out, other times it may be the bag, box, or container and before we know it the food is gone, with little knowledge of eating it. Research shows that being distracted or not paying attention to a meal tended to make people eat more at that meal, while paying attention to a meal was linked to eating less later on.
There is a mind-body connection when it comes to eating. Your awareness of the food you’re consuming is one of the cues your body uses to decide how soon to be hungry again. If you are oblivious to what you’re eating, it is not only easier to overconsume at that meal, you also tend to get hungry again sooner because you don’t recall having eaten.
Digestion involves a complex series of hormonal signals between the gut and the nervous system, and it seems to take about 20 minutes for the brain to register satiety (fullness). If we eat too quickly, satiety may occur after overeating instead of putting a stop to it. There's also reason to believe that eating while we're distracted by activities like driving or typing may slow down or stop digestion in a manner similar to how the "fight or flight" response does. And if we're not digesting well, we may be missing out on the full nutritive value of some of the food we're consuming. There are five elements to mindful eating:
- Awareness is the cornerstone of mindful eating. Are you really tasting your food, or mindlessly munching away?
- Do you savor food when you eat, noticing the texture, aroma, flavor?
- Are you in-the-moment? Fully present? This may mean turning off the TV and sitting down. Your mantra can be “when you eat, just eat.”
- Observe how your body feels before and after you eat. Notice how your body feels when you are truly full.
- Non-judgment-speaking mindfully and compassionately to yourself, instead of being ruled by “shoulds” and guilt when you eat.
We have to first be aware of our thoughts and habits before we can hope to change them. Mindful eating helps:
- strengthen our ability to observe habitual patterns. You can learn to stop “autopilot behaviors” such as overeating, under-eating, and emotional eating.
- raise awareness of rigid thought patterns (all-or-nothing thinking).
- you can choose which habits to develop and which to abandon.
- A regular mindful eating practice can help us to change the way we eat. Try a challenge to only eat at the table or at set times. Make sure that we are really hungry, not just passing time with food and realize that when we think about what we are doing and choose different thought patterns … change is possible! We can develop new eating habits or change the ones we are not happy with.
Finally, consider these tips when learning to eat mindfully:
- Be mindful of thoughts and feelings- am I hungry or bored, lonely, or passing time?
- Notice flavors as they come and go - pay attention to the taste of the food, sweet, salty, smooth, crunchy, etc.
- Notice cravings, and when they occur. What can I do instead of eat?
- Stay with the taste of the bite before jumping to the next one, enjoy the food one bite at a time.
- Power of choice, it’s up to us to choose. Talk with a friend or family member to join with you to talk through times of temptation. Remember, each day is a new day to start again.
While we are not currently in our office, know that the Wayne Co Extension office is working hard to provide information and resources to you. If you have questions please contact us at 330-264-8722 or e mail me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Melinda Hill is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Educator and may be reached at 330-264-8722.
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