Turns out, there is...and it's a pretty simple solution. It's called mindfulness eating. I've written a lot on mindfulness and how it can improve our life...making us happier and filled with more gratitude. Now, it seems, mindfulness can also help us monitor our weight. Who knew? Mindfulness, when applied to eating, helps us recognize our patterns and behaviors, while bringing attention to bodily cues associated with hunger and fullness. Practicing mindfulness while eating, helps us focus on the present moment; it helps us become more aware of the relationship we have with food. It also can help us to become aware of eating with enjoyment, which doesn't happen when we stuff our faces while doing a myriad of other things at the same time. I know I'm guilty of this; I eat dinner and watch the nightly news on TV, write my blog and consume breakfast, snack while on the phone to mom....
Our bodies carry a lot of information and knowledge, so when we start to apply mindfulness to our eating, we can begin to make conscious choices instead of falling into our old habitual habits...and, often-times, emotionally-driven behavior (Just like the stress eating we can be guilty of doing.). When we become aware of what we're doing, when we're doing it, our actions can then be more easily changed.
Frogs, and people too, who approach food with mindfulness are encouraged to
- Explore their own inner intelligence about food - likes and dislikes.
- Choose foods that are pleasing to and nourishing to their bodies.
- Accept particular food preferences without self criticism or judgement.
- Practice awareness of the body's cues on when to eat...and when to stop eating.
- Understand that their food preferences and eating experiences are unique to them.
1. Start with just one meal. Don't try to change everything all at once. With just one meal, start paying attention to when you begin to feel hungry and when you begin to experience the sensation of being full. Maybe start with dinner. As this becomes easier and more habitual, then add on lunch and, finally, breakfast.
2. Remove distractions from view. This means leaving the cell phone, computer, or tablet in the other room. Sit an the table and no turning on the TV. Make it about the meal and little else.
3. Tune into your perspective. Recognize that there is no right way or wrong way to eat; there are only different perspectives and levels of awareness based on individual eating experiences. This will help to alleviate guilt and judgement.
4. Engage your senses. Try using all your senses when you eat. Notice the colors, the tastes, the textures, and all the different smells. Try noticing how the food changes as you chew each bite thoroughly.
5. Take your time. This requires slowing down...which, in turns, allows your digestive hormones time to signal your brain that you're full before you eat too much! One easy way to accomplish this, is to intentionally set your fork down between bites. Slowing down the meal will also give you more time to enjoy the company of your dining companion(s). "Eating on the fly" is never a great idea, either. It's easy to get distracted when you eat while driving, working, or participating in other activities. Eating at the dinner table with a vase of fresh flowers and a prettily-set table helps make mealtime an event worthy of your undivided attention.
Mindfulness eating won't take away ALL your desires to over-stuff yourself on holiday food. But, what it will do, is make you more aware of what you eat. Research shows that when we take the time to savor the foods we eat, we need less of them to feel satisfied. And that, alone, can help keep off those unwanted pounds from adding up this holiday season. So, go ahead; eat that cookie or have that slice of pecan pie. Just remember to pay attention...and enjoy each and every bite!