Curious about “mindful eating”? Worried about how to cope with all of the temptations of the upcoming holiday season? Guest blogger and functional nutritional therapist Karey Thomas offers advice on how to use mindfulness to keep yourself on track this December and into the new year.
Listen to What Your Body is Telling You
It’s hard to believe that next week begins what is known as the holiday season! Bringing in the holidays can be a wonderful time of year: family dinners, cookie-exchange parties, and holiday celebrations with friends and co-workers seem to consume most of our calendar days. However, these can also be stressful times, so taking a few minutes to become familiar with a “Mindful” practice can help redirect some of these overwhelming moments.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is defined as living in the present and paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, and surroundings as they occur. A practice in “mindfulness” centered around our eating habits can improve our overall health and add quality to our holiday celebrations.
The principles of mindful eating are closely related to the seven tenets of “Mindfulness.” This process that sounds like a trendy buzzword has actually been around for millennia. It has been practiced for centuries in Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Taoism, making its way to the Western world as early as 1500 BC. However, it really didn’t take hold in the US until the 1970s, when it was introduced by a University of Massachusetts professor who studied with Buddhist teachers. He combined his Buddhist teachings with science-based approaches to reducing stress, anxiety, and worry. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a Buddhist monk, attended regular yoga classes, or even attend a workshop. With a little bit of time and discipline, anyone can incorporate a mindful practice into their lifestyle.
Food Tastes Good: Enjoy What You Eat!
Following a practice will give you more time to enjoy food and feel satisfied, which leads to eating less. The process of eating, much like many of the other processes in the human body, is hormone based. Our intestinal tract releases a hormone called ghrelin to signal the brain that we are full and it’s time to stop eating. However, it takes on average twenty minutes for this hormone signal to reach the brain. If we are eating too quickly and not paying attention, we run the risk of overeating. We may also become overfull, uncomfortable, bloated, and may even be regretful of the meal. Food tastes good, but if we are rushed or distracted we may not even notice how delicious it really is. Mindful eating can help us enjoy our food and fuel our bodies with the nutrients it needs while enjoying the process.
Five Tips for Mindful Eating
- Slow Down: You are what you digest. Slowing down may seem like a simple and basic idea. However, this can be the most trying as well. Mindful eating requires a slower pace, giving mealtime the attention it deserves and engaging in the sights, smells, and textures of your food. Slowing down gives your digestive organs time to prepare and properly digest the food you’re are eating. This practice may not be ideal for every meal, but the more you engage in mindful eating the more you may find it enjoyable.
- Lose the Distractions: Eat without distractions; don’t multitask while you’re eating. Step away from the computer, turn the TV off, leave your phone in another room or turn it off so you’re not tempted to scroll through social media. Eating in a present state of mind and focusing on your body’s reactions to the food will keep you cognitive of your body’s signals for hunger and fullness.
- Pay Attention to Hunger Cues: It’s important to become aware of hunger cues that dictate when we should eat. For most of us, food is available anytime and we eat without recognizing whether its what our body really needs. Listening to our bodies and eating when we are hungry (not when we’re starving) is also important. Waiting too long to eat can also lead to poor food decisions. Being mindful teaches us to pause before we react. We need to listen to our body’s cues and ask, “Is this what my body really needs?” Maybe yes, and that’s OK! But it’s also important to recognize the moments you’re reaching for a snack because of stress or boredom. You can better manage stress through breathwork, a quick walk, or getting some fresh air and sunshine.
- Don’t Judge: Mindfulness teaches us that there are no “good” or “bad” feelings; they are just our feelings to accept and treat without judgment. Mindful eating proposes the same concept; rather than labeling foods as “good” or “bad,” we recognize foods that nourish us while also appreciating food that simply just tastes good. When food is presented on a level playing field without being forbidden or guiltless, when we know these treats aren’t totally off limits but reserved for special occasions, it becomes easier to make healthier decisions. This practice also means giving yourself the chance to try new foods and deciding whether you love or hate them. Accept your reaction without judgment, acknowledge the feeling, and move on.
- Use Your Senses: The last step in mindful eating is to use your senses. How does the food smell and look? What kind of texture does it have to the touch and how does it feel in your mouth? Can you hear it? Does it crunch or crackle? The objective here is to pay attention to the details. Enjoy the entire experience of what you’re eating and discover more than just the taste of your food.
Mindful eating can be a wonderful practice to put in place all year long; following these steps will address digestion issues while helping you maintain a healthy diet with a variety of colorful foods to nourish the body to reach optimal health.
Recipe For Success!
An easy way to get a lot of nutrients is in a smoothie. This “Blueberry Banana Oatmeal” smoothie is full of antioxidants and fiber to keep your blood sugar regulated and energy up.
- 1 cup milk (any kind)
- 1 banana (fresh or frozen)
- 1⁄2 cup frozen blueberries
- 1⁄2 cup plain greek yogurt
- 1⁄4 cup quick oats (gluten-free may be used)
Combine milk, banana, and blueberries in a blender; blend until smooth. Add yogurt and oats; blend until smooth. Pour into glasses and serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.
Karey is a regular contributor to the Live Your Value team. Be sure to check her recent posts about how to relieve both psoriasis and IBS symptoms through diet. Thanks for reading and remember, today and every day, Live Your Value one nutritional choice at a time!