It’s painfully obvious that the majority of us have a dysfunctional, love/hate relationship with food. We live in a perversely food-abundant, diet-obsessed culture where we are overfed AND malnourished. Our food consumption is both overly indulgent and guilt inducing and we are as hyper focused on food and body image as we are oblivious to the food we put into our bodies and what they are doing to us.
So how do we move from body-numbing mindless eating to eating mindfully to nourish our bodies?
First lets touch on what Mindful Eating is…
Mindful Eating is eating with the intention of caring for yourself and nourishing your body with vital nutrients and with the attention necessary for noticing and enjoying your food and the effects they have on your body.
Simply put, mindful eating is eating slowly, with you undivided attention, with as few outside distractions as humanly possible. Mindful eating encompasses the entire process of eating:
- Awareness of your physical and emotional cues
- Recognition of your non-hunger triggers for eating
- Learning to meet your other needs in more effective ways than eating
- Choosing food for both nourishment instead of a source of entertainment or distraction from the human condition
- Eating for optimal satisfaction and satiety
- Using the fuel you’ve consumed to live the rich, fulfilling life you deserve to live
- Taking the time to feel gratitude for your body, your health and the food we are privileged to eat
(not everyone has access to the abundance of foods we have to chose from nor are they able to consume them in there very own temperature controlled kitchens)
This broad application makes mindful eating a powerful tool for developing a healthier, happier relationship with food.
Benefit of Mindful Eating
Many people who struggle with food, mindlessly reach for it for a vast number of reasons outside of hunger and nourishment. Often times we use food to self-medicate. We use it to numb out uncomfortable feelings, block out unwanted thoughts, entertain us when we are bored, calm us when we are anxious and comfort us when we are depressed. And most of us have been doing this even before we could consume solid foods.
Think about how we care for an infant. If a baby is crying shortly after it has been fed, most parents will check for a dirty diaper, make sure the they are clean, have been burped, not too warm or too cold, try to comfort the child in numerous ways…and when all else fails, we offer the child a second helping until said child is in a milk induced coma (dopamine response to milk sugar) and all is right in the world again. This pattern is so ingrained in us that most of us don’t even know what our hunger cues feel like. We are on a vicious, never ending cycle of dopamine addiction.
Mindfulness increases your awareness of these patterns. By simply pausing before we react, we create a buffer between what triggers you and your actions. So next time you notice that you feel like eating, pause and ask yourself the following questions:
- How am I feeling?
- Am I bored, angry, tired, lonely, stressed or anxious?
- Is my tummy hungry or do I want to eat for the taste and effect the food will have on me?
(if you are truly hungry, Brussels sprouts and a chicken breast will sound just as tasty as a Godiva Truffle)
- Is what I am about to eat going to take me closer to my health and fitness goals or further away?