Mindful Eating

In mod­ern day soci­ety, eat­ing has become a more mind­less act for var­i­ous rea­sons. Dis­trac­tions (such as smart­phones, tele­vi­sions, com­put­ers), mul­ti­task­ing and our over­all fast-paced soci­ety have pulled atten­tion away from meal­time behav­iors that sup­port appro­pri­ate nour­ish­ment. It is also impor­tant to acknowl­edge that in this year of cri­sis, food intake as a cop­ing mech­a­nism can be a trau­ma response; this can occur con­scious­ly and sub­con­scious­ly. Mind­ful­ness can be one part of the solu­tion for each of these list­ed sce­nar­ios that impact many individuals. 

Apply­ing mind­ful­ness in life, espe­cial­ly sur­round­ing nutri­tion, is one strat­e­gy that can help peo­ple achieve eat­ing com­pe­tence. When ini­ti­at­ing mind­ful eat­ing, the new­found cog­nizance and self-reflec­tion can indi­rect­ly yield phys­i­cal health ben­e­fits as the improved rela­tion­ship with food progresses. 

Our reg­is­tered dieti­tians pro­vide some tips to help you get start­ed on the path to mind­ful eating:

  1. First and fore­most, give your­self per­mis­sion to eat. Diet cul­ture is over­ly restric­tive, ques­tion­able in long term effi­ca­cy and often back­fires down a road of dis­or­dered eat­ing. Acknowl­edge that food con­sump­tion is nor­mal and so is vari­ety in foods.
  2. Lis­ten to when your body is telling you to eat. While hunger can be sub­jec­tive, hon­or­ing its pres­ence rebuilds trust with food and makes eat­ing more mat­ter of fact over time. Most peo­ple feel bio­log­i­cal hunger every 3 to 6 hours. Allow for this approx­i­mate time­frame to cre­ate struc­ture yet flex­i­bil­i­ty through­out your day; It has been shown to decrease late night snack­ing that can result from being too restric­tive pri­or in the day.
  3. Before eat­ing, pause and ask your­self, am I tru­ly hun­gry?” If so, pro­ceed. Self-reflec­tion is help­ful as one becomes more in tune with meal­time behav­iors. Pay atten­tion to com­mon­al­i­ties sur­round­ing your eat­ing expe­ri­ence. Do you notice any pat­terns such as bore­dom, stress, or fatigue when you turn towards eat­ing? It is rec­om­mend­ed to explore the root cause of these emo­tions. Find kind ways to com­fort, nur­ture and resolve your issues. Anx­i­ety, lone­li­ness and bore­dom are exam­ples of emo­tions humans expe­ri­ence through­out life. Deal­ing with the source of the emo­tion is ben­e­fi­cial and allows for more accu­ra­cy in deter­min­ing true hunger. This may be best explored in ther­a­py with a behav­ioral health specialist/​therapist. Talk with your doc­tor for a referral.
  4. When true hunger occurs, stud­ies show that sit­ting down at a table is best for both the mind and body. Appro­pri­ate food reg­u­la­tion and more relax­ation are com­mon wins.
  5. While tak­ing bites, opti­mize your time and pay atten­tion to all aspects of your food. Slow down and taste it, smell it and enjoy it!
  6. Hav­ing for­bid­den foods” at meals and snacks makes them ordi­nary foods to eat in ordi­nary ways. Unless med­ical­ly con­traindi­cat­ed, this encour­ages an appro­pri­ate and real­is­tic con­sump­tion through­out the lifes­pan. Low­er­ing over­ly restrict­ed foods from the pedestal they often sit on encour­ages inner wis­dom to take over on a case by case basis.
  7. Not mak­ing your­self” eat fruits and veg­eta­bles over time can turn them into foods to eat for plea­sure ver­sus a forced, unen­joy­able bite. Curios­i­ty, fun and excite­ment work with kids and can work with adults too. Cre­ate a shop­ping list that has vari­ety and try out inter­est­ing recipes that incor­po­rate a vari­ety of foods includ­ing pro­duce. Con­sid­er peri­od­i­cal­ly using Pin­ter­est, Youtube, etc. to find a recipe that sounds inter­est­ing with a veg­etable you have nev­er tried. The approach and mind­set can real­ly make a dif­fer­ence with get­ting in those fruits and vegetables.
  8. Mind­ful eat­ing isn’t some­thing that is mas­tered, but rather a con­tin­u­al prac­tice. Build upon your expe­ri­ences and notice your­self grow.

These rec­om­men­da­tions are some strate­gies that can help set the stage for a life­time of not only healthy eat­ing, but a bet­ter rela­tion­ship with food. To learn more about how to apply mind­ful eat­ing with­in your unique health pro­file, con­tact nutri­tion ser­vices at 630−286−5090 to sched­ule an in per­son or vir­tu­al appoint­ment. Our reg­is­tered dieti­tians can help guide you on your nutri­tion journey.

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