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12 Days of Fitness 2014: Day 8 – Mindful Eating

December 17, 2014 0 Comments

(This is Part 8 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

eating-hamburger-crazy-630Eating can be such a joy. Yes, it’s something we need to do to survive but it can also be one of life’s real pleasures. Problem is, most approach eating not so much as a staple of survival, but an activity that just gets in the way of our already fast paced lives. We do not often think about when we eat, what we eat, why we eat and how we eat. But imagine if we were to slow down and take the time to pay attention to our eating behaviors. We would be able to control our weight more effectively by listening to our bodies’ signals of fullness and hunger. That is the concept behind the idea of mindful eating.

Before You Pick Up The Fork

Mindful eating is about becoming more aware of the positive, nurturing opportunities of the food you are about to eat, rather than just inhaling it. While that’s a concept I’m sure most can appreciate or understand, most are so out of touch with how hungry they really are or how much they eat at any given time that the real pleasure of eating is lost. Mindful eating also helps you to acknowledge your response to food, both physically and emotionally. Engaging in physical activity makes many people think they are free to eat as much as they like. I hear it again and again: “I know I can burn off the extra calories.” Unfortunately, this mindset turns eating into a mindless activity that encourages overconsumption. And it pays little attention to focusing on foods that will fuel the body for physical activity. Exercisers need to be reminded to focus on the quality of their diet—foods and nutrients that energize the body and mind—not the quantity of calories they consume. This can be difficult because people often misread the body’s signals of hunger and satiety. Some research even suggests genetic deficits exist because some people do have a problem realizing they are full. No matter whatever the cause, here are so tips to being more mindful with your eating.

Practical Tips for Mindful Eating.

  1. Wait Until Your Stomach is Empty or Almost Empty – The first step to mindful eating is to eat only when your stomach is (almost) empty, or when you have a slight sense of hunger. This tends to be about 2-3 hours after the last time you eat something. At times, the hunger response is often mistaken for thirst so it is recommended to try drinking a glass of water first to determine if the “hunger” sensation is indeed hunger and not just an indicator of thirst.
  2. Be Aware of Your Environment – When mealtime arrives, it’s important to dedicate all your attention to the food. So sit down, preferably at a table with a nice arrangement that appeals to you visually or some good company. Remove external distractions: no television, phone, tablet or computer. Research has shown that the chance of overeating is greatly diminished.
  3. Appreciate Your Food – As a sort of self-proclaimed foodie myself, I often scratch my head at what some consider to be good food. Part of the enjoyment of eating is to really appreciate what you’re eating and not to just shovel it in. Begin with a moderate portion and focus on appreciating your food. Think about where it came from and whether it’s in its natural state or processed/manufactured. Be grateful in light of the many people around the world who have no food on their plates.
  4. Smell Your Food and Take Time to Taste as You Chew – Distinguish the different flavors, experience the texture, acknowledge the temperature of the food. Stay focused on the food. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to realize that your body is being fed so slow down. Wait until the food enters your stomach before you take the next bite; this will slow the pace of your eating and can prevent heartburn, acid reflux, stomachaches and some intestinal issues. And really chew. Chew about 15-30 times per mouthful. It may be easier if you put your fork down between bites.
  5. Stop Eating When You Feel About Two-Thirds Full – This will help you tune in to your body’s satiety signals. Because you’ve been enjoying your food, you’ll start feeling full more quickly. Ask yourself before you eat that second helping: Is it hunger or habit?

Remember, mindful eating takes practice. Your mind will start to wander so you constantly need to pause and refocus. The practice of mindful eating will help reinforce and remind us how powerful the mind/body connection really is, and that the practice of mindful eating can improve your physical and mental health and overall well-being.

See you tomorrow for Day 9 of the 12 Days of Fitness

 

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

 

 

About the Author:

Jeff Harrison is a fitness coach based in Pottstown, PA. He received a BS in Exercise and Sport Science from Penn State University and is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), NSCA Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT) and ACE Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist (ACE-AHFS). Jeff's articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals as well as consumer oriented websites and magazines.

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