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Mindful eating..

Updated: Feb 12, 2021

"Slow down, you're eating too fast." Distracted, hurried eating may add pounds and take away pleasure.


Does this sound familiar?


You're at your computer, facing a wall of e-mails. After composing a reply, you hit "send" and reach for the bulging tuna wrap on your desk. After a few bites, chewing while glancing at the screen, you set the wrap down, grab a handful of chips, and open the next message. Before you know it, you've finished lunch without even noticing it.

A small yet growing body of research suggests that a slower, more thoughtful way of eating could help with weight problems and maybe steer some people away from processed food and other less-healthful choices.

This alternative approach has been dubbed "mindful eating." It's based on the concept of mindfulness, which involves being fully aware of what is happening within and around you at the moment. In other areas, mindfulness techniques have been proposed as a way to relieve stress and alleviate problems like high blood pressure and chronic gastrointestinal difficulties.

Applied to eating, mindfulness includes noticing the colors, smells, flavors, and textures of your food; chewing slowly; getting rid of distractions like TV or reading; and learning to cope with guilt and anxiety about food. Some elements of mindful eating seem to hearken back to the ideas of Horace Fletcher, an early 20th century food faddist who believed chewing food thoroughly would solve many different kinds of health problems.


The mind–gut connection


Digestion involves a complex series of hormonal signals between the gut and the nervous system, and it seems to take about 20 minutes for the brain to register fullness. If someone eats too quickly, fullness may occur after overeating instead of putting a stop to it. There's also reason to believe that eating while we're distracted by activities like driving or typing may slow down or stop digestion in a manner similar to how the "fight or flight" response does. And if we're not digesting well, we may be missing out on the full nutritive value of some of the food we're consuming.

Mindfulness techniques have been used to help cancer patients with their diets in a number of different ways; for example, encouraging survivors of head and neck cancer to meditate on food as they're making the occasionally difficult transition from a feeding tube back to eating again. One such meditation might involve having patients bite into an apple slice, close their eyes, and focus on the sensory experience of tasting, chewing, and swallowing.


A starter kit


Experts suggest starting gradually with mindful eating, eating one meal a day or week in a slower, more attentive manner. Here are some tips & tricks that may help you get started:

  • Set your kitchen timer to 20 minutes, and take that time to eat a normal-sized meal.

  • Try eating with your non-dominant hand; if you're a righty, hold your fork in your left hand when lifting food to your mouth.

  • Use chopsticks if you don't normally use them.

  • Eat silently for five minutes, thinking about what it took to produce that meal, from the sun's rays to the farmer to the grocer to the cook.

  • Take small bites and chew well.

  • Before opening the fridge or cabinet, take a breath and ask yourself, "Am I really hungry?" Do something else, like reading or going on a short walk.

A treatment for bingers


Several studies have shown that mindful eating strategies might help treat eating disorders and possibly help with weight loss. A randomized controlled study of 150 binge eaters where they compared a mindfulness-based therapy to a standard psychoeducational treatment and a control group. Both active treatments produced declines in binging and depression, but the mindfulness-based therapy seemed to help people enjoy their food more and have less sense of struggle about controlling their eating. Those who meditated more (both at mealtimes and throughout the day) got more out of the program.

Many say mindfulness helps people recognize the difference between emotional and physical hunger and satiety and introduces a "moment of choice" between the urge and eating.


 

Take away: Attempt one mindfulness exercise a day - whether it be enjoying your coffee, tea, water or best scenario - an entire meal, and see how different you feel afterwards. I notice I eat less and enjoy it more, it also helps me decide my likes and dislikes when it comes to things I used to eat mindlessly. You are worth it, and with the cost of food today, who has time to be wasting food by aimlessly chewing and swallowing!


Let me know what you decide to do with this knowledge and what you take away from your own experience!

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