ABOUT MINDFUL EATING AND MB-EAT
We all eat – and we all eat mindlessly at times. We might be in a hurry, socializing, or eating everything on our plate just because it’s there. Or we might be eating to handle stress, gobbling down a favorite ‘comfort’ food, but not even really tasting it after the first few bites. Mindfulness helps connect the mind and the body, to slow down for a moment, connect with ourselves, and move from reacting to responding.
Mindfulness can help bring balance into every aspect of how we eat. It involves cultivating a combination of “inner wisdom” (awareness of how our body and mind are responding), and “outer wisdom” (engaging nutrition information and recommendations to meet your own personal needs and preferences).
Mindful eating involves tuning into your own natural physical hunger signals. What are they? How strong are they in the moment? How do you know? Or perhaps you’re confusing physical hunger with an impulse to eat because the food is there, or because you’re bored or anxious about something.
Mindful eating involves really tasting your food. Our taste buds start to get tired after only a few bites. Why keep eating if you’re not really enjoying the food as much? So it involves connecting with your “inner gourmet”. (But note – if you need to eat past that point of optimal pleasure because that’s all you have for lunch, that’s fine!)
Mindful eating involves learning to know when you’ve had enough. Become mindful of when your stomach is full at just the right level – that may be less if you’re about to go exercise, or more at a family celebration. And learn to tune into ‘body satiety’ – that feedback from your body that it’s taking in enough nutrients, but this may take some time while food is being digested, so it’s not as useful for knowing when to stop eating.
Mindful eating involves choosing foods wisely, both for satisfaction and for health. Let go of the “food police” mentality, and instead engage gentle self-acceptance. You might find that a small amount of gourmet chocolate is far more satisfying than a larger amount of that candy bar you sometimes grab at the grocery store. You may find that one box of cereal calls you more loudly than another. Or one type of sandwich at the deli. Or an entrée on the menu. Balance that with any health needs for your body. Tune in mindfully – you’ll probably be more satisfied.
Mindful eating involves cultivating your “outer” wisdom about the nutritional and ‘energy’ value (aka ‘calories’) that of foods you regularly eat (and in the amounts you prefer). Instead of being afraid and anxious about checking on ‘calories’, cultivate a self-accepting curiosity.
You might be surprised – foods you thought of as ‘fattening’ may be fine in small amounts, whereas some of those ‘healthier’ foods may add up quickly – like the bowl of granola, or that small bag of trail mix which actually contains “3 servings”. If you learn to fully ‘savor’ all foods, you may be surprised at how much easier it is to create a healthy yet satisfying balance!
Mindful eating involves knowing how to be more mindful. We all have a capacity to be mindful, but mindfulness meditation is one of the most powerful ways to develop that capacity further and exercise it as fully as possible. Find a way to learn the basics of mindfulness meditation – and practice it as a way to give yourself balance and wisdom.