Mindful Eating

You have gotten thru the holidays and have determined that you will not get on the scale. You know that your jeans are tight and that is enough to cause you to beat yourself up! This happens every year at the end of December and you also know that making a New Year’s resolution to go on a diet is the wrong thing to do, because it is just one more factor that pressures you to lose weight and eat healthily. And it will not work!

The other day, I was going through my emails and didn’t even realize that I was eating until I had gone thru an entire sleeve of crackers. I talked to some friends and they had the same experience: being so busy getting through their day that eating was done while they read, did work, made phone calls, answered endless emails, folded laundry, or talked to their kids. It got me thinking about what some other approaches might be to changing eating habits and all of my research led me to just one solution: mindful eating.

What, you might ask, is mindful eating? It is not a diet, it is not restricting food, it is not hiring a trainer. It is recognizing the value of food, slowing down your mind and your body, and paying attention to the signals your brain sends before, during, and after you eat.

We don’t engage in mindful eating when we do the following:

-Eat large amounts when we are alone and then pick at a salad while with others.

-Eat even when we are full.

-Eat while we are doing other things.

-Eat unhealthy foods that we find emotionally comforting.

-Eat because we had a fight with someone, are worried, feel down, or otherwise use food to manage our emotions.

Eating mindfully requires us to listen to our bodies and change our behaviors. We have to:

-Only eat when we are eating, focusing on our meal (not on other tasks).

-Eat on a reasonable schedule and try to keep that schedule on most days.

-Eat when we are truly hungry, in other words when we need food for fuel.

-Listen to the messages from our body and stop eating when we are full.

-Use behavioral techniques to slow down our eating, such as putting our fork down between bites, drinking water before our meal, engage in conversation with others during a meal. When we slow down, we are more likely to get the message from our brain that we are full.

-Be aware of negative emotions, and resist going to the refrigerator or pantry to cope with psychological issues. In other words, develop the skills to deal with our emotions in better ways than eating.

-Try some mindfulness or relaxation exercises once or twice a day. They will help you to focus on the present and on what is important to you.

I hope you will join me and make the new year the beginning of your mindful eating journey.