Do you eat because it's time?
Do you eat because you're angry, bored, sad, tired, etc.?
Do you eat for comfort, reward, celebration, etc.?
Do you eat so fast that you barely notice the taste after the first few bites?
Do you eat to feel better?
Do you eat when you're not hungry?
Do you eat while you're doing other things (watching TV, working, driving)?
Do you feel guilty when you eat certain foods?
Have you been putting off doing anything until you lose weight?
In our food-abundant, diet-obsessed culture, eating is often guilt-inducing. When you want advice about getting healthier by losing weight you are usually told to "follow a healthy lifestyle," meaning you should exercise and watch what you eat, which is not terribly helpful if you've been unsuccessful at doing that for years. You're probably in a loop; either tightly bound by strict rules, or else you are unraveling and heading toward the bottom again.
And the Problem is Not...
The problem isn't in food. Food is neither good nor bad. And eating is a natural, healthy, and (should be a) pleasurable activity for satisfying hunger. But almost everyone can relate some difficulty they have with food, from an embarrassed confession of an addiction to chocolate to the palpable misery of sneaky nighttime eating. How is it that food and eating have become such a common source of unhappiness and a guilt-inducing activity?
This is the Problem:
The problem is that we don't recognize the messages our bodies broadcast. Mindfulness is a concept that allows you to increase your awareness of these messages without judgment and create space between what triggers you and how you act. Mindfulness is about rekindling your relationship with food. Mindful eating teaches you to hear what your body is telling you. It empowers you to break old automatic or habitual reactions and discover options that work better for you.
What is Mindful Eating?
Imagine what it would be like if you became aware of your body's messages about when to eat, what kind of food satisfies you, and how much food you need. Eating mindfully doesn't mean eating perfectly -- it's not the same thing as controlling what you eat. Mindful eating is not a diet, or about giving up anything.
Mindful eating eliminates the need for food labels (good, bad); it's not about eliminating what you love to eat, or putting up with tasteless food substitutes; and mostly it doesn't require willpower, self control, or deprivation It's more than "eating slowly, without distraction." And (tada!) it's guilt free.
Mindful eating is also about paying attention to the colors, smells, textures, flavors, temperatures, and even sounds (crunch!, smoosh) of your food. It's about paying attention to your body. To start you can ask yourself: Where, and how, do I feel hunger? When, and how do I feel satisfied? What does half-full feel like, three quarters full? (Source)
The Next Steps...
Start to pay attention when your mind gets distracted -- notice when you want to grab a book, turn on the TV, call someone on your phone, or do web search on some interesting subject. When you experience whatever impulse comes up, acknowledge it and return to your eating.
- (Easy) Drink the first four sips of a cup of hot tea or coffee while maintaining total attention on what you're doing.
- (Easy) If you read and eat together, start alternating these activities instead of doing both at once: Read a page, then put the book down and eat a few bites, savoring the taste, then read another page, and so on.
- (Intermediate) In a social eating scenario, ask everyone to eat in silence for the first five minutes, concentrating on the activities of eating, chewing, and attention.
- (Advanced) Eat one meal a week mindfully, alone, and silently. The point is simply to eat, as opposed to eating and talking, eating and watching TV, or eating and watching TV and gossiping on the phone while Tweeting and updating your Facebook status.
Your eating habits and lack of attention to your actions aren't easy to change. Don't be too hard on yourself. You're not supposed to be able to switch on your mindfulness button and be able to do it 100 percent. Lasting change is built with small changes, and takes time (probably more than 21 days). (Source)
Do you want some help to start a positive change in your relationship to food? The best way to get things done is to begin. Contact me through Audacious-Aging.NYC®, to get started. Inspiring a healthy, active, and vital life, now and tomorrow, through in-home personalized fitness programs and remote wellness coaching.
Jacqueline Gikow is an enthusiastic, supportive personal trainer and wellness coach, inspiring a healthy, active, and vital life now and tomorrow managing weight issues, maintaining healthy bones, brain, hearts, and joints, as well as letting go unproductive habits.