Food for Thought: Mindful Eating

 

Take an apple out of your refrigerator. Any apple will do. Wash it. Dry it. Before taking a bite, pause for a moment. Look at the apple in your palm and ask yourself: When I eat an apple, am I really enjoying eating it? Or am I so preoccupied with other thoughts that I miss the delights that the apple offers me?

When you are stressed, tired, or your mind is racing through your never-ending to-do list it is easy to forget about what you are eating. Letting your emotions control you can be disastrous for your mind and body. With a little practice you can learn to listen to your body and become a mindful eater. This behavior change will help you gain control of your eating habits and can help with weight loss and increase overall enjoyment of your food.

Stress contributes to unhealthy eating behaviors and weight gain. Stress activates the body’s emergency response system, also known as the “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system. This activates the hypothalamus in the brain and causes the adrenal glands above the kidneys to secrete the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is responsible for the cravings our bodies experience for salty, sugary and fatty foods when stressed. Our body craves these comfort foods because they temporarily lessen the impact of stress on the body and ameliorate tension. Carbohydrates increase the hormone serotonin, which improves mood and performance under stress. This explains why the baked goods, ice cream or pizza is more satisfying when you are stressed! Also, repeated stimulation of reward pathways in the brain due to stress may lead to changes in the brain, which lead to overeating.

Mindfulness is being aware of the present moment, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Mindful eating is simply the awareness of the food you are eating. It is about experiencing the pleasure of food more intensely.Whether you are trying to lose weight to achieve that beach body or maintain a healthy weight, read below to discover 16 tips for becoming a mindful eater.

  1. STOP and enjoy the aroma, taste, texture and appearance of your food
  2. express gratitude for your food
  3. become aware of situations and foods that trigger overeating
  4. breathe deeply, relax and calm your mind before eating
  5. before eating ask yourself: Am I hungry? Why am I eating this?
  6. Listen to your body’s hunger and satiety cues
  7. think about how much you are serving yourself, learn portion sizes, don’t eat directly from a package
  8. eliminate distractions: take a break from the TV, computer, working and driving
  9. eat small bites and chew slowly
  10. put your fork down in between bites
  11. take 20: it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to signal to your brain that you are full so giving your body time to digest after a meal will help you eat less.
  12. plan meals and snacks ahead of time so you don’t have to eat unhealthy foods from a gas station, fast food restaurant or vending machine if you will be on a trip or have a busy day (visit foodgawker.com for meal and snack ideas!)
  13. make dinnertime an event: set the table, place flowers and candles on the table, invite friends over, eat with your family
  14. do not skip a meal: this will cause your body to go into starvation mode and slow down your metabolism, and when you are starving you will overeat and gain weight
  15. avoid grazing and nibbling on food throughout the day, the calories add up!
  16. brush your teeth or chewing gum can be a quick method to prevent overeating

Add this to your bucket list: the Blue Cliff Monastery. Buddhist monks living at this monastery only 75 miles northwest of Manhattan, NY hold free “mindfulness days” where guests can come to the monastery to practice mindfulness and enjoy a vegan lunch to practice mindful eating. Read more about this opportunity in the New York Times article below.

Next time you sit down for a meal, think before you eat!

Sources:

http://www.umm.edu/patiented/articles/what_health_consequences_of_stress_000031_3.htm

http://swc.osu.edu/healthy-eating-active-living/weight-management/weight-management1/

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/08/dining/mindful-eating-as-food-for-thought.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

http://www.livestrong.com/article/489875-how-does-your-stomach-tell-your-brain-that-youre-full/

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