Mindful eating is the intentional act of taking in food for the nourishment of your body. It is eating with full attention on the experience of your food. That is, eating with all your senses. Eating is a natural, healthy, and pleasurable activity for satisfying hunger. However, in our culture, food is used for much more than satisfying our hunger. We use it to soothe ourselves, to socialize, and much more.
Mindful eating involves paying full attention to the experience of eating and drinking, both from the perspective of what is going on inside and outside the body. It is paying attention to the colors, smells, textures, flavors, temperatures, and even the sounds of our food. We explore questions like, where in the body do we feel hunger; where do we feel satisfaction; what does half-full feel like, or three-quarters full?
We also pay attention to our thoughts. We notice when our attention moves away from what we are eating or drinking. We start the notice the impulses to grab a book, to turn on the TV, to call or text, or to do a web search on some interesting subject. We notice the impulse and return to just eating.
Here are few thoughts to help you shift your view of your eating patterns:
1) Why do I eat?
2) When do I eat? When do I think about eating? When do I decide to eat?
3) What choices do I make? What influences my decisions?
4) How often do I eat while doing something else?
5) How often do I prepare the food myself or are involved in the preparation?
6) How much do I eat? How often do I eat more than I need? Less?
7) Where do I eat?
Here are few options you might incorporate at meal or snack time. Start with making small changes. No more than one or two. Add more when you are ready. Many people find that starting with breakfast is a good place to begin.
1) Say a blessing or express gratitude before each meal.
2) Take mindful bites. If you feel you need to read, talk to others, or check your email, do only one thing at a time. That is, take a bite. Savor. And then check email. Don’t do both simultaneously.
3) Make choices that are right for you. Food that heals and nourishes our bodies. Not choices to soothe our emotions or to satisfy some need other than to provide fuel for our body.
4) Check in several times during your meals. Notice if you are starting to feel full. Ask yourself, am I half full, three-quarters? Notice if you are eating to feed your emotions. Feelings are part of the human experience. Allow your feelings to arise rather than trying to avoid them or deny them. Sometimes it's hard to know whether you are eating because you are hungry or bored.
5) Use your senses to savor every bite. Try preparing your food. Or experimenting with different recipes using new seasonings and herbs.
6) Observe your thoughts. If you find you are having negative thoughts, remember it does not mean that you have to act on them or let them sway your emotions. Negative thoughts can trigger overeating or stop you from adequately feeding your hunger.
7) Snacking. If you have a habit to snack while you are working on the computer, studying, or reading, you might try taking a break from what you are doing to enjoy a snack.
8) Appreciate your food. Marvel at the intelligence of your body. That is how your body knows what to do with the food that you ingest. How it turns into food into energy and fuel.
Try not to be too hard on yourself as you start to make changes in your eating patterns. Our eating patterns are deeply ingrained habits that have evolved over a life time. Start with small changes that you can build on over time.
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