Are you eating on the fly, in your car, at your computer, while answering e-mails, making phone calls or finishing a project? If you are like 90% of North Americans, I have a feeling you said yes to at least 2-3 of the above, which means you are what we call a “Mindless Eater”. Mindful eating, on the other hand, can help you with weight management goals, and to help improve your overall health and well-being.
This month’s article focus on giving you the tools to recapture power over food—power you gave up long ago. If you are like most others in our modern culture, you allow other people, events and emotions to control how you eat, how much you eat, how fast you eat and how you use food in your life.
Unfortunately, when you give up your control in this way, you allow mindless eating to be the rule. Over time, this unskilled way of eating can result in unhappiness with food, how your body responds to it, leading to overeating, getting overweight, getting sick or both.
With mindful eating, you learn to slow down your eating and truly pay attention to your food. As you gain skills, your power over food returns. Then, food not only feeds your body but brings sustenance to your mind and spirit as well. The result is eating less food but enjoying it far more—which leads to seamless solutions for weight management and healthy eating habits.
What is Mindful Eating?
Mindfulness is simply the moment-by-moment awareness of life. But it’s not always so simple. We so easily get caught up in our own thoughts and self-talk that we are scarcely aware of life as it passes us by. This is very true of our eating. We eat meal after meal, snack after snack, barely aware of what we’re eating and how much we’re consuming.
Mindful eating is a return to paying attention to our food—really pay attention—we begin to notice all sorts of wonderful aspects of the food, and we become aware of not only how much we’re putting into our bodies, but of how our food tastes, its texture, temperature, fulfillment, etc…
Stages of Mindful Eating
There are four basic stages of Mindful Eating:
- Arriving. We realize that we are in the presence of food, and that we have careful work ahead. Before each meal or snack, we take a moment and simply notice the food and consider it.
- Awakening. We notice every aspect of the food itself before, during and after eating it (texture, color, temperature, etc…)
- Tuning in. We pay attention to our own bodies as we eat. We notice the movement of muscles, limbs, fingers, lips, teeth and tongue. We tune in to our level of hunger. We’re in touch with need for food and we know when to stop eating.
- Service. We extend our mindfulness to any function in the service of food. This includes such activities as setting the table, clearing the table, washing dishes, putting away dishes, shopping for food and preparing the food. All are done with attention and wakefulness.
This habit of practicing mindfulness and eating slowly will change not only your relationship with food, but also your life forever. It is one of the “secrets” I teach my clients who are struggling with weight management, and one of the reasons why the French don’t get fat. When you eat slowly and mindfully, your body has time to ingest the nutrients from your food more efficiently, thus preventing you from overeating, and putting on unwanted pounds.