The Art of Eating Mindfully
By Katie Jeffrey, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN
When I established my dietetic private practice in 2007, I began to learn about and practice mindful eating. As my knowledge increased, I incorporated mindful eating concepts into individual counseling sessions and into my daily life with wonderful success.
On December 12, 2012, I became a licensed Facilitator of Am I Hungry?®, a comprehensive program that teaches participants to recognize and cope with their triggers for overeating and reconnect with their physical signals to guide when, what, and how much to eat without restrictive diet rules. This approach helps individuals become more mindful about both their eating and living, helping them to learn how to create new, healthier habits. I feel that my life is richer for learning to be more mindful in how I eat and live.
As with any new habit, it takes practice to eat mindfully (I am still experimenting with what works best for me to eat and live mindfully the majority of the time!). One of the ultimate goals of mindful eating is to stop eating when you are comfortably full or satisfied. To help you do this, try the following suggestions the next time you eat:
1. Pause before beginning to eat and ask yourself, “How hungry am I on a scale of 1 to 10?” One signifies “ravenous” while 5 is “satisfied” and 10 is “sick” to your stomach.
2. Ask yourself, “How much food will fit comfortably in my stomach?”
3. Pay close attention to the appearance, aroma, taste and texture of the food; savor each bite. Place your utensil down and sit back in your chair between bites.
4. When you take a break from eating, take a deep breath and check in with your body to determine how full you are.
5. Chew slowly and mindfully.
6. Wait until you have finished chewing to put more food on your utensil. Do you currently do this? Or, are you multitasking by chewing while simultaneously thinking about the next bite of food and putting that bite on your utensil? Doing this does not allow you to truly taste and experience the food you have in your mouth because you cannot fully pay attention to two things at once.
7. Sip your beverage.
8. Engage in conversation with others.
9. Know that this will not be the last time you eat these foods because you can enjoy them again at another meal or snack especially if you have leftovers!
10. As soon as you are comfortably full, put down your fork and stop eating. Sit back in your chair and enjoy the pleasant feeling of fullness. What are you feeling? Are you disappointed that you are full? Are you anxious or uncomfortable that you are not eating but others are? Is it better to continue eating with others leading you to overeat and feel guilty because you ate until you were uncomfortable? Or, is it more pleasurable and rewarding to eat until satisfied so that you feel content and proud for stopping at a comfortable level of fullness? Please think about and examine how you feel during this experiment. Stay curious about this experience and learn from it. It may help to journal about it.
11. Save leftovers for when you are hungry and need to fuel your body again.
12. Does food taste as good when you are full?
13. Allow yourself about 10 to 15 minutes before going for seconds. This allows you to correctly determine your fullness level since it takes time for your stomach to signal your brain.
Practice is key to mastering the art of mindful eating and achieving your health goals. Eating mindfully takes the “power” away from food and gives it back to its rightful owner, YOU! Eating mindfully helps you to rediscover your internal signals enabling you to eat normally and reach your health goals.
First appeared in The Mystic, Stonington and Lyme Times, January 2013.
Three Ways to Experiment with Mindful Eating
By Katie Jeffrey, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN
Eating mindfully can help you reach your health goals and optimal well-being. It takes practice to eat intuitively. I hope you take time to try out a few of the strategies I suggested above for slowing down your eating speed and paying closer attention to your food and the overall experience of eating. Below are three additional suggestions for incorporating mindfulness into your eating experiences:
1. Experiment by choosing one meal to leave some food on your plate and sit at the table. See what emotions you feel. Are you sad, disappointed, anxious or guilty? What are you feeling? Do these feelings contribute to a second helping? Allow yourself to feel these emotions even if it is uncomfortable. Think of strategies to help you overcome these feelings if they are negative. Rationalize that if you don’t get seconds the food will be there for a delicious leftover meal tomorrow and will taste better when you are truly physically hungry.
2. Find a “stop” food or activity. If you find it challenging to stop eating a delicious tasting meal or food, experiment with a “stop” food or activity. Others have had success with the following strategies:
a. Brushing their teeth after eating.
b. Chewing gum.
c. Drinking hot tea or cold seltzer.
d. Engaging their mind and/or body in a nonfood activity such as, knitting, doing a cross word puzzle, stretching, going for a walk, or calling a friend. It is helpful to remove yourself from the kitchen area when you do one of these activities.
3. Make a list of 3 to 5 things that you want. The next time you find your mind turns to food try to determine what emotions or event caused your mind to think about food. Is it because you are lonely or bored? Is it because someone criticized you or made you feel sad or guilty about something? Does this emotion typically cause you to turn to food for comfort? Do you think about food when feeling this emotion because it is uncomfortable to deal with what actually caused you to feel this way?
Think of solutions or strategies to help you begin dealing with these emotions. If bored, make a list of nonfood activities that you can do to get your mind off of food such as, doing a craft project or practicing yoga.
If someone else caused you to feel this way, would talking to someone be helpful? Or, perhaps, journaling might be useful?
Begin to experiment with the strategies that will help you reduce eating from emotions or eating when you are not truly physically hungry. Please keep an open mind and stay curious.
If you decide to eat, reach for whole foods first such as, fruit, vegetables and hummus, or low-fat cheese. Before eating, picture how one of these nutrient-rich foods will make you feel 30 minutes from now compared to candy or chips. Nutrient-poor foods like candy and chips give you energy for about 20 to 30 minutes and then leave you feeling tired and craving more sweets or salt.
You are in control of your food choices, food does not control you. Every time you eat, you make choices – base these choices on how hungry you are, what you feel like (sweet, salty, savory, smooth, crunchy, hot or cold), what your body needs and what will feel good in your stomach now and also 30 minutes from now.
You are now on your way to eating with both attention and intention. If you practice mindful eating and living you will reap the benefits of this wonderful approach just as I have done and continue to do!
First appeared in The Mystic, Stonington and Lyme Times, February 2013.