Mindful or Mindless Eating?

Whether you’re in your office, eating, or exercising, mindfulness plays a key role in self-awareness. By definition, mindfulness is “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something,” or “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations.”  Essentially, mindfulness is characterized by uninterrupted focus on any activity and is often used as a therapeutic technique.  Eliminating external and internal distractions enables one to focus on only their thoughts and emotions. Practicing mindfulness is simple and can take many forms. Simply being aware during everyday activities such as eating increases self-awareness and improves healthy decision making.

Studies have shown a relationship between mindfulness and eating behavior. When practicing mindfulness, individuals experience an enhanced sense of self-control and are likely to pay closer attention to fullness cues. Mindful eating implies awareness of the senses, body, and mind while eating. This allows individuals to focus on the act of eating: observing taste and texture, recognizing unconscious eating habits, and tuning in to satiety triggers. Satiety triggers are defined as feelings of fullness and satisfaction while eating.

According to the Center For Mindful Eating, these are the basic principles of mindfulness:

– Mindfulness is deliberately paying attention, non-judgmentally.
– Mindfulness encompasses both internal processes and external environments.
– Mindfulness is being aware of what is present for you mentally, emotionally and physically in each moment.
– With practice, mindfulness cultivates the possibility of freeing yourself of reactive, habitual patterns of thinking, feeling and acting.
– Mindfulness promotes balance, choice, wisdom and acceptance of what is.

To take mindfulness a step further, The Center for Mindful Eating defines mindful eating as:

– Allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food preparation and consumption by respecting your own inner wisdom.
– Choosing to eat food that is both pleasing to you and nourishing to your body by using all your senses to explore, savor and taste.
– Acknowledging responses to food (likes, neutral or dislikes) without judgment.
– Learning to be aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decision to begin eating and to stop eating.

Someone Who Eats Mindfully:

– Acknowledges that there is no right or wrong way to eat but varying degrees of awareness surrounding the experience of food.
– Accepts that his/her eating experiences are unique.
– Is an individual who by choice, directs his/her awareness to all aspects of food and eating on a moment-by-moment basis.
– Is an individual who looks at the immediate choices and direct experiences associated with food and eating: not to the distant health outcome of that choice.
– Is aware of and reflects on the effects caused by unmindful eating.
– Experiences insight about how he/she can act to achieve specific health goals as he/she becomes more attuned to the direct experience of eating and feelings of health.
– Becomes aware of the interconnection of earth, living beings, and cultural practices and the impact of his/ her food choices has on those systems.

Stomach Hunger vs. Head Hunger?

Eating mindfully requires pausing before taking a bite or sip whether it be a snack, meal or beverage.  This can be before you open the hotel room refrigerator or grabbing the nearest candy bar in your office vending machine.

Here are some questions to ask yourself before your eating or drinking commences:
– Am I eating because I am hungry or  bored? Stressed? Angry?  Depressed? Excited?
– Am I passing the time rather than reading a book or watching a movie?
– Am I celebrating a victory or success with food or alcohol?
– Am I consoling a disappointment or loss by giving myself permission to eat anything I want?
– Is my stomach growling and blood sugar dropping? Do I feel like my body needs nourishment (stomach hunger), or am I looking for a distraction (head hunger)?

Strategies to Practice Mindful Eating

The winter is an excellent time to begin focusing on mindful eating strategies.
Here are some strategies to help you focus on more mindfulness and your nutrition:

– Consider taking a walk to blow off some steam or a power nap to refresh yourself and renew your mind.
– You can practice mindfulness through meditation, yoga and physical exercise.
– Eat slowly, taking note of your food’s many flavors and textures. Chew thoughtfully, reflecting on the food’s journey from farm to table. While you eat, pay close attention to your body’s signals. – — When you feel full, put your fork down and pause.  This mindfulness tip will prevent overeating and potential weight gain.
– Instead of aimlessly reaching into a bag or container, serve food on a plate. Doing so allows you to clearly see what you are putting into your body and encourages mindful eating. Eat with utensils when appropriate rather than your hands or fingers.
– Disconnect from technology when eating a snack or a meal.  Put your phone down, close your laptop, and turn off the TV when eating. When you’re distracted by screens and eating on auto-pilot, you may be more inclined to indulge. Use this time to appreciate your food and connect with the people you are sharing a meal with.

If you would like to use technology as a support, there are several apps to assist in your mindful eating goals.  Try these mindful eating apps:
In The Moment – Mindful Eating
Mindful Eating Tracker
Eat, Chew, Rest

Taking 60 minutes out of your day for a Hot Towel Razor Shave is the perfect time to practice mindfulness and to take care of mind and body. Schedule your appointment today!

Stacy is the CEO and Founder of Savorfull. A graduate of The University of Michigan School of Nursing with a Bachelor’s Degree in the Science of Nursing and a Registered Nurse, Stacy also holds a Master’s Degree in Public Health, specializing in Human Nutrition from The University of Michigan School of Public Health. Stacy is a nationally recognized nutrition consultant and has worked with many teams in the National Basketball Association, including the Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons ( Team Nutritionist). Stacy has been named the Official Health and Wellness Consultant/Nutritionist for the NBA Coaches Association. She is also a contributing writer and television personality. Stacy has been featured in publications including Sports Illustrated, Well & Good, Shape, Self, Fox News Magazine among others.

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