Posts Tagged ‘mindful eating’

Nourishing Our Bodies – Foods True Purpose

healthy-snack2Previously we introduced the topic of mindful eating. For many, this is a new concept; for others, this may be a part of your daily routine. Wherever you are on the spectrum, I would like to continue to delve further into the concept of mindful eating by discussing food’s true purpose – to nourish our body – in the hope it will illicit a better understanding of why we may eat vs. why we should eat, and how to battle some old habits.

We eat for many reasons. Some of those reasons include:

  1. when we are with others (celebrating/mourning, gathering with friends)
  2. when there is a medical need (taking medication, treating a low blood sugar)
  3. when we are by ourselves (comforting or punishing ourselves; boredom)
  4. out of habit (watching TV/movies, because it is your normal time to eat)

…and the list can continue. We may eat before a party so that we don’t eat at the party, but when we arrive at the party, we find ourselves eating anyway, whether to be polite or to indulge, etc.

Food is to nurture, not harm. Being completely honest with yourself, ask yourself these questions: If you eat a large meal, how do you feel? If you eat until your feel uncomfortable, did you eat too much? Why did you eat that quantity? Did it fulfill you and give you a sense of well-being, or did you undermine your needs and purpose by overindulging?

Implementing a mindful eating technique

Considering the reasons above, and any you may have thought of, answer the following: Is food really answering these needs? What other ways could you satisfy those needs without using food?

Ask yourself before you eat, “Do I need this food for nourishment, energy or another purpose?” Consider your answer honestly and entirely, and then make your decision to eat it or not.

Think of some ways that will help you remember to “check in” before you eat. With consistent thought, you will begin to make mindful choices based on your body’s needs and become a more active participant in your health!

Understanding Some Basics of Mindful Eating

mindful-eatingEating mindfully is not something we learn as a child. As a matter of fact, we are often taught the exact opposite. As children, how many of you were told by your parents “Clean your plate!”? This idea can actually lead to a lifetime of overeating, as many of us feel guilty leaving food on our plate, especially when there are “starving children” in the world. But the concept of mindful eating can lead to healthy habits and lead to less waste.

So what is mindful eating? Simply put, it is eating with awareness. Your focus is on your food, your body, and your body’s response to the food you eat. We put forth time and effort when we review bills and bank statements or when we plan a meeting, but when it comes to eating, we do so absent-mindedly. Even when we are in the act of eating, our minds drift or we are in the midst of conversations with others, that we don’t focus on how much food we put in our mouth, the texture of the food or the taste.

So how can mindful eating help with weight loss? Many of us struggle with food. We react mindlessly to it. We eat when we are not hungry. We continue to eat even though we have eaten enough already. And often, we do not use food for its intended purpose – to nourish our bodies. With that being said, if we started asking ourselves, “Is this food I am about to eat nourishing to my body?” our response to food would likely be much different. If you answer truthfully, you may find yourself choosing a healthier option altogether.

Another great question to ask yourself before eating is, “Am I hungry?” We find ourselves eating whenever it is convenient or whenever food is present, regardless of whether we are hungry. And when you ask yourself that question, you open the door to other mindful questions which, when answered truthfully, can impact your eating habits and food choices tremendously.

The great thing about mindful eating is it is a way of life – a lifestyle. It is not a diet. It is just you treating your body, and the food you allow to enter your body, with respect. It increases your awareness and attitude toward food without judgement. It allows you to think, and not react, to food.

Moving forward, consider the following choices in planning your meal: the type of food you eat or drink; where you eat; when you eat; how often you eat; the amount of food you eat; the size of the bite you chew; how fast or slowly you chew; how thoroughly you chew; when you swallow; how much time you take between bites; and when you stop eating . The list can go on and on – go ahead and add some of your own thoughts or questions. And let’s begin the practice of mindful eating today.

For more information or questions about weight loss services offered at Emory Healthcare, call 404-778-7777 or visit http://www.emoryhealthcare.org/emorybariatrics/.

Reference:
Fletcher, Megrette, MEd, RD, CDE; Frederick Burggraf, MEd; Discover Mindful Eating, 2010
http://amihungry.com/what-is-mindful-eating/

Mindless versus Mindful Eating

Mindfull vs. Mindless Eating HabitsOvereating often occurs because we are not aware of how the environment around us affected our eating and what the quantities of food we consume are. Brian Wansink, PhD, a nutritional scientist at Cornell University, has written a book called Mindless Eating, in which he describes research studies that reveal how little awareness we often have about our eating and what influences it. Amazingly, even his students, who were PhD candidates in nutritional science, were unaware of how their environment influenced their eating. These are some of his findings:

  • The average overweight person underestimated his or her calorie intake by 30-40% (versus 20% for normal-weight people). The more they ate the greater percentage they were off in their estimates.
  • People ate 53% more popcorn if given a large container versus a small one, even though it was stale and they had just eaten.
  • Even PhD students in nutritional science ate 31% more ice cream at a party if their bowls were big rather than small.
  • When a candy dish at their desk at work was transparent, people ate 71% more candy versus if the dish was opaque, even with the same amount of candy in the dish.
  • If Hershey’s kisses were within reach at a secretary’s desk, he/she ate nine per day on the average, versus four if the candy was six feet away.
  • The more people are around us, the more we tend to eat; if we have 7 or more friends around us, we eat double the food than when alone.

Living in the United States, which has the highest obesity rate of any large country; it is easy to become overweight just following what others in our culture do. Our biggest weapon in being “counter-culture” is awareness: knowing what is in the food that we eat and how much of it we are eating. Wansink’s findings have some clear implications for people who want to lose weight:

  • Think of times when you tend to be least aware. Often these times occur when people are in social situations, when they are served food by another person, and/or when they are tired, bored or stressed. Come up with a plan for controlling eating in these situations.
  • Consider filling out a food diary during difficult times to make you aware of your eating habits and the number of calories you consume.
  • Think of how you can make a 100-calorie change in your eating or exercise per day. Examples would be: to cut out one can of a sugared beverage per day; skip one dessert per day, walk for 15 minutes daily; regularly take stairs rather than elevators, park further away from stores or other destinations, and/or walk while talking on a cell or portable phone.
  • Preplan how much you will eat during parties and social occasions and how you will control your food intake. An example would be to fill up one plate during a buffet, consume a preset number of chips at a Mexican restaurant, or decide to eat half a portion at a restaurant and to ask for a box before you start eating. Consider alternative activities with friends besides those associated with overeating.
  • Control your environment so as to make problem foods less available. Shop from a list and when not hungry so that problem foods are not in the house. Put any such foods in the back of the panty or refrigerator and store them in small containers.  (Many people find it helpful to put pre-measured meals or snacks aside.) Resolve never to take a big box or container in front of you and eat from it. Keep seconds away from reach and serving containers off the table.
  • Use smaller plates, bowls and glasses. For many people, their use saves many pounds each year.

Reference: Brian Wansink, Ph.D. Mindless Eating. Bantam Dell Publishers, New York, 2006.