Helping Your Wellness with Mindful Eating
I am a pretty fast eater. I could certainly list a few reasons why this habit has formed. However, the underlying enforcer continues to be not taking my time and truly enjoying the experience of eating.
I primarily view food as fuel, a quick stop between activities. Occasionally, eating is used as a form of comfort or solution to boredom, but until recently, it rarely was an experience to savor. Holidays were a time to enjoy food, but once I had children, sitting and genuinely enjoying even those few meals a year seemed to disappear.
A busy life also had me multitasking during some meals. I was getting ahead of the game while my children were in school. I thought I was being more productive by checking emails, reading, or completing one of many seemingly urgent tasks while eating lunch. Also, having kids with busy schedules meant more dinners on the go. Home meals were not as frequent as I would have liked and again, after-school activities and homework trumped leisurely meals.
Instead of helping my busy life, I discovered that rushing and multitasking actually put me more out of balance by increasing stress. Increased stress causes cortisol levels to rise, and that can have adverse effects on digestion and overall health. Concentrating on one thing at a time is better for our well-being.
Concentrating or paying attention to one job or experience at a time relates to the concept of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the practice of awareness. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of an eight-week stress-reduction program called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), says, "Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally," He also sometimes adds to his definition, "In the service of self-understanding and wisdom."
Mindfulness is an excellent tool if you are trying to change habits that may not be serving you well.
Thankfully, through the use of mindfulness, I have been able to slow down the pace of my life. I have made time for enjoyable meals; however, I don't think the part of my brain that controls my eating speed got the memo. I have slowed down my eating some, but I know I could definitely improve in this area.
Precision Nutrition, the online Nutrition Program I use with my clients, published an article called "The 30-day Eating Challenge that Can Blow Your Mind-and Transform Your Body". The author, Krista Scott-Dixon, explains that "Diet challenges are usually all about what you CAN NOT eat. But what if you could see huge results from a self-experiment that doesn't make any foods off-limits? Instead of focusing on WHAT you eat, our 30-day eating challenge emphasized HOW you eat. And the results? They could be transformational."
The key to the challenge is to eat slowly and mindfully.
Eating slowly is one of the first habits encountered when clients sign up for the online nutrition program with me. For two weeks, you are given short daily lessons that will help you work on this habit. Mindfulness is explored and helps make the process easier.
Being aware of how you currently eat is the first step. Do you eat standing up or sitting down? Do you chew your food enough? Are you answering emails or watching tv while you eat? Adding mindfulness to eating means paying attention to the process, being aware.
And remember, mindfulness involves no judgment. Can you always sit and eat slowly with nothing else going on? I know in most people's lives, the answer is, "No, not always possible." However, I know when I do have the time to sit and focus on my meals, I am grateful as it gives me time to hit the pause button for a bit and really enjoy yummy food!
Mindful eating can make you aware of how your personal eating habits affect YOU. Trying out mindful eating is not an exercise that should discourage you but give you the information you can work with to better your well-being. Interested in trying it out?
One small but powerful tip if you are interested in pursuing this challenge is to make yourself some sort of reminder. Maybe a card to put next to where you usually eat? Or place something on your refrigerator? I personally may invest in a bright neon sign, "EAT MINDFULLY" for my kitchen. It would totally clash with my home decor but, yes, I think it is THAT important!
Can you relate?
Do you ever look down at your plate during dinner time and see that it is empty and you aren't quite sure how that happened?
Do you really taste your food when you eat?
During the meal, was your mind concentrating on something other than eating?
Are you often in a rush and tend to grab the most convenient, not necessarily nutritious, food?
Did you make some choices quickly because you were super hungry and regretted the decision after eating the food?
Are you a mindless snacker?
Although I am very aware of the benefits of eating slowly and mindfully, as I said, it continues to be a challenging habit for me. I could improve on it, and therefore, I plan on starting the Precision Nutrition challenge on July 15th.
If you would like more information on this subject or how I could help support you to Shape Your Mind For Life, please contact me.