Last week, we dove headfirst into the mindfulness discussion. We focused on overall mindfulness and a few activities to try at home. This week, we wanted to keep on the mindfulness trend and talk about a few different mindful eating exercises. Mindful eating is a powerful tool to gain control of your eating. These exercises have been shown to help with weight loss, help restructure “diet” thinking, reduce disordered eating, and help you feel better.
So, What is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is derived from the concept of mindfulness. As we discussed last week, mindfulness is a form of meditation that can help a person recognize and cope with a current emotions and physical sensations. Mindful eating takes the concepts of mindfulness and applies them to the process of eating. It also aims to reach a state of full attention to your cravings and physical cues while eating. Mindful eating has helped treat a number of conditions, including eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and various food-related behaviors.
What Does Mindful Eating Involve?
At its core, mindful eating includes the following:
- Eating slowly and without distraction
- Listening to physical hunger cues – eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full
- Learning your actual hunger cues vs non-hunger triggers
- Engaging the senses – noticing the flavor, color, smell, sounds, and textures
- Learning to cope with guilt and anxiety regarding food
- Learning to eat for overall health and well-being
- Noticing how food affects your feelings and appearance
- Learning to appreciate food
A Few Mindful Eating Exercises to Try:
Slow down and try “single-tasking”
How many times do you sit down to eat, and before you know it, your plate is already clean? Or the times you sit on the couch with a big bag of chips. You tell yourself you’re only going to eat a few. But by the end of your show, half the bag is gone! We live in such a fast-paced and distracting world. And it’s starting to interfere with our relationship with food.
Eating too quickly is a reason many of us have lost the relationship with our hunger signals. Slowing down is one of the best ways to get our brains and bodies on the same page. This is important because our bodies continually try to send the brain information about the nutrition we need. And the brain doesn’t receive satiation signals until 20 whole minutes after they’re sent! This is why so many of us unconsciously overeat. We don’t realize we are full until it’s too late! There are a few simple ways to try and slow down at the table. You can try chewing each bite at least 20 times. Or you could put your fork down between bites as well. Have an actual conversation, and speak just as much as you listen!
On top of eating too quickly, most of us are distracted while we eat. When we are distracted, we aren’t able to listen to our body’s needs and wants. We ignore all hunger signals and only stop once we’re in pain. One way to avoid this is by sitting at an actual dining table. Turn off the TV, shut down the iPad. Put your phone on silent and cease working and scrolling for 15 minutes. Take this break to reflect and give your brain a break. Enjoy and savor each bite.
Know your body’s personal hunger signals
Why are you eating? Are you actually hungry? Or are you eating because of a certain emotion you may be feeling? In normal, everyday life, we tend to listen first with our minds. But the beauty of mindfulness practices is learning to listen with the body first. There are many of us that turn to food during times of emotional duress. These emotions can be different for everyone. The cliché example is turning to the pint of ice cream when we’re sad or stressed out. Some may turn to celebratory overeating. And there are others that snack out of boredom.
The goal of this exercise is to start listening to our bodies before our brains when it comes to food. More often than not, we eat when our minds tell us to, rather than listening to our body’s hunger cues. Is your stomach growling? Do you feel low on energy? Or perhaps do you feel lightheaded?
Try journaling about your food experiences. Note what events cause you to eat based on emotion. Also note the times you are able to listen to your body and try to create a habit of those scenarios.
Eat food not stories
This practice piggybacks off of knowing your emotional hunger cues. However, this one can be a bit more difficult to find balance with. Why do we eat certain foods in the first place? How does their tie to comfort effect how much we consume them? Do we eat certain foods solely based on taste? What about specific memories regarding a certain food or recipe?
Ideally, we can find nourishing foods that are also satisfying and comforting. A common mindfulness practice is the food exercise from last week’s blog. That practice is normally done with a raisin, as raisins are kind of odd. Not everyone is a raisin fan. And not many find the food particularly appealing when it’s not covered in chocolate. There are many reasons that the raisin eating one is such a powerful exercise. But one is that when we slow down and eat healthy foods like raisins, we often enjoy them. And ironically enough, we enjoy the food more than the story we tell ourselves about that food in the first place.
As we practice eating a greater variety of healthier foods, we are less inclined to binge on our comfort foods. And often times, we discover ways of making our guilty pleasure recipe incorporate more nutrient-dense foods. When we are more inclined to enjoy healthy foods, we ultimately find many foods mentally and physically satisfying as opposed to just a few.
For a few more mindful eating exercises to try, click here.
Why Should You Try Mindful Eating Exercises?
In today’s world, we have an abundance of food choices every single day. Eating has become a mindless act, as we are constantly distracted. We tend to rush through our meals in order to get our priorities accomplished. But shouldn’t fueling our bodies be a priority in itself?
Through mindful eating exercises, we can restore our attention and slow down. Being mindful makes eating an intentional act rather than an automatic one. As we increase our recognition of physical hunger and fullness cues, we are better able to distinguish between emotional and physical hunger. Lastly, mindful eating increases awareness of triggers that feed the want to eat, even when we’re not necessarily hungry.
How Can We Help?
As we mentioned last week, one of the goals of mindfulness is to stop focusing on stress and anxiety. Mindful eating allows us to stop listening to our minds, and start listening to our bodies. This is a great practice to incorporate into your wellness routine. As you get better at mindful eating, you may notice other ways your body is trying to communicate with you. For further consultation and an adjustment, contact us today to schedule an introductory chiropractic session. We can discuss your wellness routine and questions on mindfulness as part of my initial chiropractic workup for you as a new patient to our practice.
* This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact a medical professional for advice.