Mindfulness. This word seems to be floating around a lot in the health field nowadays. Meditation and yoga teachers preach it all the time, but you may have noticed that it’s been seeping its way into other aspects of wellness as well. So, what does that mean for you?
Mindfulness is a state of [present moment] awareness that we calmly and nonjudgmentally notice and acknowledge our feelings, thoughts and sensations. The idea is to observe, and within these observations, learn a bit more about yourself. Perhaps you’ll notice long term patterns emerging, start to recognize your reaction to common situations or even pinpoint what types of foods you reach for when specific emotions come up.
You may have heard the ways to become mindful is through meditation and yoga. That’s true, and if meditation is something you want to dabble in, there are some great apps for quick daily meditations. And yes, yoga is a moving meditation that is very much a mindfulness practice, but does that mean you need to run out and purchase a yoga mat and some Lulu’s to be able to practice presence, absolutely not. You can begin a mindfulness practice right from the comfort of your current space - and no one even needs to know it’s happening.
I’d like to focus this discussion on a specific type of mindfulness, and that’s around food.
Take a moment and ask yourself the following questions:
- When is the last time you sat down at a table and ate? When is the last time you just ate and did nothing else [no TV, no driving, no phone, no social media scrolling]?
- When is the last time you actually tasted your food? How long does it take you to eat?
- Do you eat when you’re hungry? Do you stop eating when you’re almost full?
- Do you eat on a regular schedule?
- Do you know where your food came from? Did you make your meal? Rank the quality of your last meal.
If you can’t recall any of these, that’s okay! That means there is lots of room for experimentation. Here are some ways to be more mindful, right now, when it comes to food:
Hunger Cues: Notice whether or not you are hungry. Is your stomach growling, do you feel like you have low energy, are you getting ‘hangry?’ If the answer is yes, then it’s probably time to eat. It’s easy to mistake physical hunger for other forms of hunger, so take a few seconds and feel your body out.
Be Curious: Do you know where your food came from? Is this food of high quality, or the highest quality available to you at that time? Did you make the food yourself?
Eliminate Distractions: If you’re home or at work - clear your area, put your phone away or place it on Do Not Disturb, turn off the tv or computer screen; anything that could distract you - take care of it. You’re less likely to overeat when you are eating without distractions.
It seems silly, but sitting down, at an actual table, makes a difference. If you’re driving, pull over or wait until you are at your destination to dig in.
Breathe. You do it all day without effort, now do it on purpose. Take 5-10 deep breaths before you dive in to your plate.
Slow Down: Eating does not need to be a race [unless of course you’ve enrolled in some hot-dog eating contest] and chances are you will consume fewer calories by simply slowing it down!
Slower eating contributes to weight loss. If you are eating fast your body registers a stress response, releases hormones, and shuts down your digestive system. It’s also much easier to overeat if you’re shoveling food into your face like you’re never going to eat again.
Time yourself. See how long it takes you to eat, and then start adding minutes on trying to work up to 20 or more - and don’t use the excuse that you’re in a rush - you absolutely can take a very minimum of five minutes out of your day to just eat.
Eat to 80% Full: Eating slowly allows you to notice satiation cues, as the body takes approximately 20 minutes to register that it is full. Trying to eat to a point where you feel as though there may be a bit more room for food, but stopping there is considered eating to 80% full.
Eating Rhythm: Similar to our circadian rhythm, we have an eating rhythm.
Skipping meals in the morning and/or afternoon cause overeating in the evening [i.e. big dinners, or binge eating after dinner].
Big meals before bed lead to less maintenance, detoxification, repair and regeneration during sleep aka waking up with a food hangover, or still full from the night before. Eat 3-4 hours before bedtime for optimal digestion and better sleep.
Our bodies peak around 12-1:30pm [everything is running at optimum speed & efficiency], and drop back off in the late afternoon, so that big dinner will be harder on your digestive system. Eat a denser lunch to avoid overeating at night.
All of these topics will be covered more in depth in my Beyond Eating program, beginning June 23rd, plus a whole lot more. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about how mindfulness matters around food, I encourage you to read the book The Slow Down Diet by Marc David. In the meantime, if you have questions about your current eating habits or want to expand your practice of mindfulness, sign up for my free stress eating guide to be enrolled in a weekly email to learn different mind-body nutrition tips.