How many of us have had the experience of eating an entire bag of chips or a pint of ice cream without even realizing it? When this happens, most (if not all) of us notice and appreciate the full taste of our first few bites, but can hardly remember the rest. Mindless eating can happen when we are simultaneously doing other activities such as working, driving, watching television or talking on the telephone. Eating becomes a secondary, almost less important, experience rather than the enjoyable and nurturing one that it should be.
Mindful eating allows us to savor our foods and have a full sensory experience with every meal. It encourages us to take time when eating to enjoy each and every bite and how the foods make us feel. Mindful eating also promotes taking a pause when choosing foods so that we are more likely to make choices that are nurturing and healthy for us. Not only is it a practice of listening to our bodies, noticing what it needs or does not need in the moment, but it tunes us into the joy of eating – the tastes, smells, textures and activation of pleasure centers in the brain.
Mindful eating has been shown to increase enjoyment of foods, as well as reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Slowing down when eating also allows for improved digestion, optimal nutrient absorption and signaling of satiety (or fullness).
Many people find it helpful to start out with a particular mealtime when practicing mindful eating. You might choose a specific location to eat, such as the dining table or the lunchroom at work. Maybe choose a favorite plate or bowl that is just the right size for the serving you want to eat. Eat without distraction, television off and cell phone placed out of reach, giving your full attention to the sensory experience of your meal.
You can also try switching up how you eat. If you generally eat with customary utensils, try using chopsticks instead. Take smaller portions, eat more slowly and look at your food more closely. The preparation of food in itself, washing and cutting vegetables, serves to keep us present in the moment, detach from distractions and feel greater joy in the food we eat.
Click on the following link to download a transcript of this recording: Mindful Eating Execerise Transcript.
To delve deeper into ways mindfulness can transform your eating patterns and support your health and wellness goals, Duke Integrative Medicine offers Changing From Within. This 8-week course will help you learn to bring close attention to your mind, body, behaviors and patterns related to eating. You will explore the many variables that drive our habits—including stress, unhappiness, and even unconscious beliefs—and develop a road map for sustainable change.
The group support and personal mindfulness skills you will develop in this program can provide a pathway to achieve a healthy weight that can be maintained for a lifetime. Loaded with concrete meditation exercises, behavioral techniques, nutrition advice, and meal-planning charts, this course provides the tools to avoid cravings, stop emotional overeating, and figure out when you are full.
Lasting weight loss and healthy living begin in the mind. Are your ready to learn how to re-program your body, make healthy choices, lose weight, and keep it off for life? Click here to learn more about Click here to learn more about Changing From Within.
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