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Challenge of the Week: Mindful Eating

January 23, 2012
Familiar scenario: Return to my room from class/work/gym. Hungry. Fix up some yummy, healthy vegan meal and happily go plunk down in front of my computer. Commence watching Sherlock. Food+Benedict Cumberbatch=heaven…  Until I look down at my plate and only see a few pathetic crumbs. Wait a minute… Wasn’t there a burrito there a second ago?  Um, yes. And I barely remember eating it. Well darn, I didn’t even get to enjoy it! I guess I’ll eat another.
My main struggle with food is that I am not a mindful eater in the least. Not mindfully eating is the scenario I just described above. The result is that I take in more food than I need, and I am not appreciating my food. I get too enraptured in the brilliance of modern technology to appreciate the delicious and nutritious food I make. If I sat down and stared at a wall, instead of my computer screen, and really focused on what was in the mouth and my stomach, I would push the plate away considerably sooner. When I multi-task eat, I am not cognizant of how much I am eating, how full I feel, and what my food even tastes like. I think many of us are guilty of doing something else while we eat, and it’s having a negative impact.
The Center for Mindful Eating gives the following principles for Mindful Eating:
  • Start by recognizing whether you’re hungry before you begin eating. If you aren’t hungry, you won’t be as interested so it will be harder to stay focused. Besides, if a craving doesn’t come from hunger, eating will never satisfy it.
  • Don’t wait until you’re famished. One of the keys to conscious eating is to keep your body adequately fed to avoid becoming overly hungry which increases the chance that you’ll overeat.
  • Next, decide how full you want to be when you’re finished eating. When you eat with the intention of feeling better when you’re done eating, you’re less likely to keep eating until the food is gone. Because let’s be honest, feeling stuffed sucks. Worst feeling in the world.
  • Eat without distractions. If you eat while you’re distracted by watching television, driving, or talking on the telephone, you won’t be giving your food or your body’s signals your full attention. As a result, you may feel full but not satisfied.
  • Savor the aromas and tastes of your food as you eat it. Put your fork down between bites and be conscious of all the different sensations you are experiencing.
  • If you notice that you’re not enjoying what you chose, choose something else if possible. Eating food you don’t enjoy will leave you feeling dissatisfied. Too true, my friends, too true. And deprivation leads to binges.
  • Push your plate forward or get up from the table as soon as you feel satisfied. The desire to keep eating will pass quickly. Keep in mind that you’ll eat again when you’re hungry.
  • Notice how you feel when you’re finished eating. If you overate, don’t punish yourself. Instead, be aware of the physical and/or emotional discomfort that often accompanies being overly full and create a plan to decrease the likelihood that you’ll overeat next time.

So, my challenge to myself and to you is this: For one week, focus on mindful eating. Take the time to fix a meal and a place setting, sit down, and enjoy your food. Learn to gauge how much food is enough to feel satisfied, but not overly full. Enjoy your food. Savor it, and then be done. Clear your place immediately and put away any left-overs, if you linger, you will probably continue to eat.

I hope you will join me!

-Over and out

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