Mindful eating– What is it? Why is it important? Are you always multitasking while you eat? Do you eat for nutrition or just the pleasure of the food?
I hope to explore and answer all those questions in this post! I’ve been somewhat obsessed with food in one way or the other most of my life.
I’m not a “foodie” in the way that I like gourmet food, or the latest fad foods. No, I just love good down-home southern cooking. I just love food and love to eat. That is until I started having major digestive problems.
Now I obsess over what is good for my body as for what I eat and what I can easily digest. So let’s take a closer look at Mindful Eating!
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What is Mindful Eating?
The term mindful eating sounds self explanatory doesn’t it? Think about it. Mindful means to be aware, to consciously think about, and to be fully present in the moment or experience. So you might think that you are always conscious and aware of the fact that you are eating.
However, think about how often you eat in a rush. Perhaps you eat while trying to get the kids to hurry up and get homework finished. Rushing through a 30-minute lunch break at work. Maybe you even grab whatever is the quickest thing you have on hand, rather than fixing what your body is really craving.
So let’s look at a couple of definitions of mindful eating.
Why is Mindful Eating Important?
As infants when we felt hunger pains we cried and we were fed. When we felt full we stopped eating, pushing the bottle, breast, or food away. Naturally answering the physical cues to eat.
These natural cues worked well for us until about the time we started school or became part of a more structured environment. At school we started having a scheduled lunch time. We were told when to eat and how long we had to eat the meal. Rather we were hungry at that time or not, we learned to eat then or not eat at all until the end of the school day.
Thus starts our structured routines and scheduled eating instead of eating when our bodies physically cue us to eat. This form of scheduled eating follows us throughout school, college, into adulthood and our jobs. It forces us to form bad eating habits.
Our bodies crave what we need, and physically cues us with hunger pains when we need it.
Much like the pregnant woman with weird food cravings, they really aren’t weird. She is only craving foods that have the nutrients she and the baby need the most. Pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you!
How to Practice Mindful Eating
Mindful eating is not about dieting, counting calories or carbs. It is more about paying attention to your body. Be mindful of what your body is craving and it’s physical cues. Eat only when you feel hungry and stop eating as soon as you start to feel full.
Basically mindful eating involves these things:
- eating slowly and without distraction
- listening to physical hunger cues and eating only until you’re full
- distinguishing between true hunger and non-hunger triggers for eating
- engaging your senses by noticing colors, smells, sounds, textures, and flavors
- learning to cope with guilt and anxiety about food
- eating to maintain overall health and well-being
- noticing the effects food has on your feelings and figure
- appreciating your food
These things allow you to replace automatic thoughts and reactions with more conscious, healthier responses.2
Listening to Your Body
When I was younger and raising my children I tried to incorporate a favorite meal of each kid into the weekly menus. While preparing the weekly menu and grocery list I would ask each one for their meal request.
Everytime my son would say; “I don’t care, food is food, I just eat because I have to.” I would try to prod him to answer by asking him didn’t one food taste better to him than another. He insisted that no, all food was the same to him, just required by his body for fuel. This always frustrated me.
Later when my son was in Junior High and High School while playing sports, he continued listening to his body. Especially after practice and late-night football games, he came home wanting egg, ham, and cheese sandwiches.
He would eat 4 of these sandwiches with a large glass of milk as soon as I could make them. His body was craving and needing the protein and carbs he had used up during the long, strenuous contact sport in which he had participated. Again, he was listening and doing what was best for his body even when I didn’t know what was best for him.
My son rarely ate “junk” and played several sports throughout school. He remained lean and healthy. He was never sick and only went to the doctor for check-ups and once when he broke both wrists during sports. I truly believe it’s all about how we eat.
Attitudes about Eating
Have you ever considered your attitude toward eating or food in general? I had never actually thought about having an attitude about eating before I started reading about mindful eating.
But I soon realized that I do have an attitude about eating! I do like food, especially cake and ice cream, which neither or good for a diabetic!
However, now that I live alone, cooking for one and eating alone is not enjoyable to me. So the act of actually eating annoys me. There are many other things I’d rather be doing!
If you’ve read some of my other posts, you know I also have nutritional and digestive issues.
Therefore, my attitude about eating sucks in general! It is not enjoyable to me, but I still need food for fuel and nutrition.
Ways to Improve Attitude About Eating
So in order to improve my nutrition and overall health, I need to improve my attitude about eating. Mindful eating sounded like the best way for me to do this.
First I did a lot of reading about mindful eating and looked for ways to improve my attitude about eating. These are a few things that I came up with:
- Eating Alone- I decided that majority of my meals and snacks are going to be solo. Living alone means I will be eating alone most of the time. I will have to learn to be more positive about this. According to mindful eating technique I should be focused on the food anyway.
- Meal Planning- I’m starting to actually plan my meals. I’m finding that I can really enjoy the “hunt” for good quick, healthy meals for ONE! I’m learning to cook small portions instead of cooking for a family. My attitude about cooking this way is already improving.
- Snacks: With my digestive issues I have discovered that my body does better with several small snacks throughout the day rather than full meals. I’m finding healthy snacks to keep on hand and listening to my body more for when I need these small snacks rather than waiting until I’m starving then overeating and having more digestive issues.
- Meals with Friends- Planning lunch or dinner dates with friends are becoming more strategic instead of spur of the moment. Of course there are still times when a friend calls at last minute and I jump at the chance, but for the most part I’m planning these meet-ups. I look forward to them and plan my meals/snacks for the rest of the day around that meal. So that I don’t overeat beforehand. Again with the digestive issues. This makes the event more pleasurable for me.
- Grocery List- My grocery list and menu planning has become almost like a puzzle for me. I almost obsess over my grocery list. I sit down and take an hour or two to really make out a detailed list. Then I spend another couple hours perusing the grocery aisles. Sometimes going to more than one grocery store until I’m satisfied with my choices and grand bounty! I select and buy only healthy snacks and recipe items. If I don’t bring unwise and unhealthy choices into the house, then they won’t be there when I’m scouring the pantry or fridge looking for something to eat. I am now proud of my choices and happy with what I’m doing for my body and my health.
Now it’s Your Turn!
Have you tried mindful eating? What are your thoughts on this topic? Leave me a comment! I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas on this!
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Until next time,