Time to face the music people- the winter holidays are creeping up on us and you know what happens every year: we overeat and regret it come the New Year and end up going on another bloody diet that ends up in disaster. To prevent you from doing this in January 2021, read this article I wrote last year.
To give you a head-start on finding peace with food and your body for 2021, I’ve decided to dedicate the entire month of November to the roadblocks which get in the way of eating mindfully. I have taken these from my book, It’s Not About the Food. I promote and teach mindful eating to my clients because it is one of the most powerful tools to help heal problematic relationships with food.
Mindful eating is a skill which can be learned just like any other and practised when you want to slow down, get centred, and be in the moment with the food in front of you. While it may seem awkward and difficult at first, with consistent practise, applying mindfulness to our eating becomes second nature.
Eating mindfully means eating with awareness: Not awareness of what foods are on your plate, but rather awareness of the experience of eating. Mindful eating is being present, moment-to-moment, for each sensation that happens during eating, such as chewing, tasting and swallowing. If you’ve ever practiced mindfulness in any way, (such as meditation, relaxation or breathing exercises) you are familiar with how easily our minds wander. The same thing happens when we eat. When you begin to practice mindful eating, it is important to remember not to judge yourself when your mind drifts off. Instead, just keep returning to the awareness of the food in front of you: the smell, texture, taste, chew, bite or swallow.
Roadblock #1: Distracted Eating
I’m guessing you know what I’m talking about here. Who among us doesn’t “multitask” on a daily basis; especially while we are eating? I have noticed that in our North American culture, the preparation and consuming of food seems to be little more than an inconvenience in our stressed-out, busy lives. I, myself, have become particularly adept at eating while driving, which not only takes the joy out of a meal, but also is very dangerous. I liken it to talking on a cell phone while driving- a very bad habit.
How many of you eat while also doing the following:
- Watching television?
- Working at your job?
- Having an argument?
- Sitting at the computer?
- Talking on the phone?
You’re not alone! Here are some statistics:
- North American adults spend an average of 1 hour and 12 minutes per day eating, yet they spend between 2 ½-3 hours per day watching television.
- 66% of Americans report regularly eating dinner in front of the television.
Why should you eat mindfully?
You will eat less and get out of the habit of overeating
Americans have been gaining weight for quite some time. The most recent National Center for Health Statistics report found that 32% of all U.S. adults are obese according to the government’s Body Mass Index (BMI) classification system. By contrast, just 23% of adults were classified as obese in government surveys taken from 1988 through 1994. Government surveys also find that the increase in weight is in part related to an increase in calorie and dietary intake. In short, people are eating more.
- If the mind is focused on more than one task while eating, critical signs that regulate food intake may not be received by the brain. If the brain fails to receive important messages such as the sensation of taste and satisfaction, it may not register the event as “eating”. When this happens, your brain continues to send out hunger signals, increasing your risk of overeating.
- You will drastically improve your digestive health: Recent research has found that when our mind is distracted during a meal, the digestive process may be 30-40% less effective.
For homework, I want you to practise eating without distractions. To help you achieve this, here are my “top 10” strategies for mindful eating:
- Only eat while sitting.
- Set a place for yourself at the table with a placemat, cutlery, napkin, and a glass for a beverage.
- Eat away from your work area- in a lunchroom, restaurant, or outside.
- Eat with chopsticks- it will automatically slow you down.
- Take a few deep breaths before you eat to calm and center yourself.
- Chew each bite at least 30 times before swallowing
- Give thanks for your meal and appreciate that you have food to eat.
- If you are eating with others, avoid upsetting conversation over meals and instead, practise eating quietly and mindfully with the other person.
- Turn off the phone at all mealtimes so you won’t be interrupted.
- Eat at the same time every day for each of your three meals and make sure it takes you a minimum of 20 minutes to eat a meal.