If someone asked you to recall what you ate over the last three days, including amounts, how well do you think you would do? Studies have shown that even trained nutrition professionals have significant error in what they remember. The culprit? Lack of mindfulness. When was the last time you were truly present for a meal? Mindful eating is a practice than anyone can start at anytime. Ideally we would like to set a pleasing table and sit down with no distractions at every meal, but we all know this is not realistic for most. In the meanwhile, try some of the following techniques:
- Pay Attention:
Begin to listen to and learn your true hunger cues. Do this by not feeding yourself at the first sign you think you are hungry, but let some time pass and see what happens to your feelings of hunger. Often we will be surprised when they go away if we simply move to a new task or shift our focus. Ask yourself if it has been at least 2-3 hours since you last ate a nourishing meal. Explore other feelings that may be masking themselves as hunger – are you bored, stressed, lonely, or tired? You may want to keep a journal for a week to track these different feelings, and you will begin to discern the true feeling of hunger from the other various cues that also trigger your brain to turn to food.
When you do decide you are genuinely hungry and ready to eat, be mindful about preparing and enjoying your meal. Think about where the food came from and what it is made out of – are you eating a lot of packaged and processed foods with ingredients you have never heard of? Or did your food grow out of the ground and/or have 5-10 ingredients that you can easily identify? If it is animal based have you thought about whether it was raised humanely, without added chemicals? Were environmental costs minimized by trying buy locally whenever possible? Lastly, be mindful about what you are really hungry for. If it is not the most healthful option think about some substitutions you can make to enhance the meal while still satisfying your craving.
- Be present:
As you begin to eat, try to minimize as many distractions as possible. Even if you are at the office or in the car, turn off the radio, your phone, and/or ask for a few minutes of quiet time if you are with others. As you put the first bite in your mouth, think about trying to chew at least 20-30 times. Really focus on all of your senses. The visual appeal of the food, the smell, the taste, the texture. This is also a good opportunity to listen to any signals the food gives your brain – if you take a bite of chips and your first thought is “I could eat the whole bag”, then this probably isn’t a wise or safe snack choice for you when you are truly hungry. If you take a bite of a turkey sandwich and immediately feel some satiating of your hunger, you are probably choosing wisely for nourishment and fulfillment. Try to keep this mindfulness and presence throughout your entire meal, which should ideally last more than the 2-5 minutes we sometimes take.
- Stop early:
Try to prepare a plate or snack bag that will have all you need for one eating session without needing to go back for seconds. If you think you are still hungry after you finish your initial serving, give yourself 20 minutes before going back again, as some experts believe it takes this long for satiety signals to reach the brain. You may also want to have a ritual for finishing each meal, i.e. crossing your silverware over your plate, or immediately packaging or discarding any left-overs. It can also be helpful to establish a practice of gratitude either at the beginning or end of a meal for the food you consume and the way it will nourish your mind, body, and spirit.
*If you’d like to learn more about implementing a plan for mindful eating and other mindfulness techniques, check out upcoming workshops on www.syncstudio.net or make an appointment with the SYNC Wellness Coach for individualized planning and guidance. Contact Julie Marks at Julie@syncstudio.net for more information!
How many of you ate something decadent over the holidays and thought “mmm… this stuff is addictive”? Well you may be right on the money! Research has shown that refined sugars trigger the same chemicals and pathways in the brain as those stimulated by drug addicts, and a combination of biology, environment, and behavioral history can make these connections much stronger in some people than others.
If you are having a hard time sticking to a nutrition plan, achieving your weight loss goals, or find yourself constantly plagued by energy and mood swings, consider eliminating sugar from your diet for 30 days. How do you react to that thought? If it doesn’t really phase you, you probably don’t have any type of physical addiction to sugar. If the thought leaves you anxious and you would rather give up your first born child, you may want to take a closer look at the role of this “White Horse” in your life.
Think about this for a moment: let’s say I asked you to give up spinach – if your body and mind didn’t have any type of abnormal dependency on sugar it wouldn’t feel any different than thinking about spinach – just another food, right? Of course the reality is that many of our social situations revolve around food and “treats”, but the more you practice saying no you realize a) you often aren’t alone, and b) the moment that you would have indulged probably would have lasted less than 2 minutes but could have derailed an entire week’s worth of healthy eating and exercise!
The solution – find great ways to be with your friends that revolve around healthy activities, and surround yourself with people that share your same values around health and well-being. Also recognize and accept that we are all individuals, and your most fit friend may be able to down a piece of cake without thinking twice, but you need to know and honor yourself enough to realize that may just not be worth it for you and your goals.