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  • Writer's pictureDianna Carr

Mindful Eating: How to Cultivate a Healthy Relationship with Food

In today's fast-paced world, it's easy to fall into the trap of mindless eating – consuming food quickly and without much thought. How many times during the week do you eat in front of your computer, while watching TV, as you are packing school lunches, while driving, or on-the-go throughout the day? Practicing mindful eating can help you develop a healthier relationship with food, leading to better digestion, improved satisfaction, and increased awareness of your body's hunger and fullness cues. In this blog post, we'll explore what mindful eating is and provide practical tips on how to incorporate it into your daily life.


What is Mindful Eating? Mindful eating is the practice of paying full attention to the experience of eating and drinking, both internally and externally. It involves being present in the moment, engaging all your senses, and acknowledging your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations without judgment. By cultivating mindfulness during meals, you can foster a deeper appreciation for food and a greater awareness of how it affects your body and overall well-being.


Practical Tips for Mindful Eating:


Slow Down: Take your time to eat your meals, chewing each bite thoroughly and savoring the flavors and textures. Slowing down allows you to enjoy and appreciate your food more. In addition, eating slowly allows your body to properly digest food and sends signals of fullness to your brain, preventing overeating. You can practice slowing down by chewing each bite more, taking breaks between bites, and even putting down your fork periodically as a reminder to not rush through the meal.


Eliminate Distractions: Minimize distractions during meals by turning off the TV, putting away electronic devices, and sitting down at a designated eating area. By focusing solely on your food, you can fully enjoy the sensory experience of eating and tune into your body's hunger and fullness cues. For those of you with small children, it may not always be feasible to eliminate distractions, especially if you are constantly getting up to fetch things for your kids or encouraging them to eat. That being said, you can still work to reduce distractions by eliminating electronics, toys, books, or other things that may lead to distraction from the eating area and instead talk with your family about the meal – who made it, where the ingredients came from, what everyone likes/dislikes, tastes, textures, etc.


Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body's hunger and fullness signals. Eat when you're physically hungry and stop when you're comfortably satisfied. Try following the “Eat until you are 80% full” rule or Hara hachi bu in Japanese. This rule originated in the city of Okinawa, where people practice this advice as a way to control their eating habits. Interestingly, they have one of the lowest rates of illness from heart disease, cancer and stroke, and a fairly long life expectancy. Also, avoid eating out of boredom, stress, or other emotional triggers, and instead, tune into your body's true needs.


Practice Gratitude: Before each meal, take a moment to express gratitude for the food on your plate and the nourishment it provides. Unless you are growing your own food, then often each ingredient on your plate has traveled a long way to get to you and has passed through many hands. Take a moment to reflect on this and give thanks for this process. Cultivating a sense of appreciation for your meals can enhance your enjoyment of eating and foster a positive relationship with food.


Be Mindful of Portions: Practice portion control by serving yourself appropriate-sized portions based on your hunger levels and nutritional needs. Use visual cues such as plate size, hand measurements, or portioned containers to help guide your serving sizes. Once you finish the portion on your plate, pause for 15-20 minutes before reaching for seconds. This will allow time for your gut to communicate with your brain and register if you are full. If at that time you are still hungry, then go back and take a small portion of seconds.


Tune into Your Senses: Engage all your senses while eating, noticing the colors, smells, tastes, and textures of your food. There’s definitely a large sensory component to food that spans beyond taste. Food can really be beautiful. You don’t have to be a fancy chef to make visually appealing food. Try varying textures and colors to create a meal that isn’t only pretty, but tasty. By fully immersing yourself in the sensory experience of eating, you can enhance your enjoyment and satisfaction with meals.


Honor Your Cravings: Allow yourself to indulge in occasional cravings without guilt or judgment. Instead of viewing certain foods as "good" or "bad," practice moderation and balance in your diet, enjoying a wide variety of foods in moderation. A philosophy I live by is that “all foods can fit into a healthy diet in the right level of moderation” (unless of course you are allergic or sensitive to a particular food or food group). That right level of moderation may vary person to person, so it’s important to figure out what will work for you based on your goals.


Mindful eating is a powerful practice that can transform your relationship with food and bring greater joy and satisfaction to your meals. By incorporating mindfulness into your eating habits, you can cultivate a deeper awareness of your body's needs, enhance your appreciation for food, and nourish your body and mind from the inside out. Start small, be patient with yourself, and embrace the journey towards a healthier and more mindful approach to eating.


Until next time...Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well.


Dianna

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