• Practicing Mindful Eating

    We have all had days when we just do not pay attention to what we eat. Whether it be due to a busy schedule, taking care of others, or work and school stressors, sometimes it can be very difficult to be mindful of what we put in our mouths. Although this is often the case, striving to be mindful, or aware, of what we eat is the way to stay healthy. Being mindful of how we eat may sound like a very simple concept. It would seem that all you need is a refrigerator and pantry filled with healthy-only options and willpower. However, as anyone who has made the decision to adopt healthier eating habits can tell you, it is not always about what we eat but how we eat as well. Putting the concept of mindful eating into action may sound easy and look good on paper; however, applying these concepts into our daily lives can prove to be quite challenging.

    What Mindful Eating Is Not

    Constantly thinking about food - how to prepare it, is it natural and/or organic, how many servings are allowed, counting calories  – is mentally draining. It is quite difficult to remain mindful of anything you are doing when your psyche has been worn down. Mindful eating is not about being so overly-aware of what you are eating that you forget to enjoy your meals. Mindful eating is not about torturing yourself if you "slip" a little on any given day. When you put too much pressure on yourself to be a food perfectionist, you are unwittingly setting yourself up for failure. You run the potential risk of giving up and going back to unhealthy habits. In this instance, you have effectively become your own worst enemy.

    What Mindful Eating Actually Means

    Anytime a person makes a conscious effort to develop better eating habits, that person will see benefits that go beyond the physical.  The benefits will be felt mentally as well as emotionally. According to the article in Psychology Today by Jan Chozen Bays, MD, "Mindful Eating – How To Really Enjoy Your Meal" mindful is described as "deliberately paying attention, being fully aware of what is happening both inside and outside yourself - in your body, heart and mind - and outside yourself, in your environment. Mindfulness is awareness without criticism or judgment."  Mindful eating is that in which your mind and body work together so that you can have a satisfying meal experience while still meeting your other health goals.

    Tips For Mindful Eatingphoto courtesy of logan brumm

    • When you eat mindfully, you are likely to eat slower, thus allowing your body to register the meal and feel full at the appropriate time - as opposed to eating too quickly, misinterpreting the lack of "fullness," and going back for more

    • Eating in secret or quickly when we are ashamed of what we eat creates negative associations between food and our emotions. Enjoy what you eat and embrace your decision to eat it.

    • Mindful is about taking the time to chew your food well, which not only helps your digestive system, but also allows you to feel the texture of your meal - increasing enjoyment.

    • Eating and being in the moment of eating allows you to process the fact that you have just enjoyed a satisfying meal. In other words, when you are eating, keep distractions to a minimum. Checking emails, sending text messages, and watching television can distract you from your meal. If you eat while you are distracted, you are more likely to overeat.

    • Mindful eating is not about deprivation. Do not develop the mindset that you will never again be able to enjoy a piece of fried chicken or a bowl of peach cobbler. Instead, allow yourself small indulgences every so often. That way, you will satisfy your craving and will be less likely to overindulge at some point in the future.

    The Bottom Line Remember that the mind and body are connected. When the mind and body are working in unison and in harmony, putting mindful eating into practice will become second nature to you.

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