Tips for Mindful Eating

November 07, 2009 By: Rachelle Goering Category: Mind Body Spirit

In my last entry, I promised I would follow with some tips for mindful eating. There are numerous techniques one can integrate into their life that support mindful eating. It is a skill that must be learned and practiced. We possess the ability to be mindful in all areas of lives. Cultivating mindfulness in eating will help us to live a mindful life. Below are some tips for mindful eating. Some of these suggestions are from the book Mindful Eating by Jan Chozen Bays. If you want more information, I highly recommend her book and CD.

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Step One: Slow Down

Americans tend to gobble their food. Eating on the go is the norm now–fast food, drive through, microwaves, etc.– is common place in our society. Did you know that the average meal last about 11 minutes?

The advantages of slowing down are numerous. It begins with chewing our food thoroughly. We get satisfaction from chewing and we actually can taste the different flavors! Plus, absorption of some of the nutrients from the food begins in the mouth–if the food stays in our mouth long enough for the enzymes in our saliva to break down the food into small enough particles to be absorbed.

Eating slowly increases satisfaction. You have probably heard that it takes 20 minutes for the stomach to signal to the brain when it is full. If your meal lasts 11 minutes, how can you possibly know when you are satisfied and full? When you eat slowly, you allow food time to reach the small intestine and send the signal that you are full and it’s time to stop eating. When we eat rapidly, we gorge ourselves before we even know we are full. By the time the signal reaches our brain, we are stuffed–and feel terrible.

Here are a few tips to eating slowly:

  1. Chew your food 30 to 100 times before swallowing
  2. Pause before you begin to appreciate the different colors, textures, smells and shape of your food
  3. Take a moment to thank everyone who had a part in bringing the food to your plate
  4. Thank the plants and animals for providing you with this life giving gift
  5. Put down your fork between bites
  6. Eat with your non-dominant hand
  7. Eat with chopsticks.
  8. Eat without distractions of TV, reading or working

Step Two: Right Amount

Learn to stop when you have just enough. That amount will change from time to time. The only way you know what is the “right amount” is to eat mindfully. To practice mindful eating is a moral and ethical act by honoring our bodies and not over filling. Zen Masters suggest eating until you are 80% full–leaving a little room in your stomach–just the right amount. When you are almost full, stop, drink some water and wait. You are probably full enough.

Step Three: Practice Loving Kindness

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Most of us have a lot of conflicting voices in our head when it comes to our relationship with food. When these voices turn negative or judgmental, it is difficult to practice deliberate and mindful eating patterns. This is the time, then, to take a step back and breathe. Take a moment to reflect what else might be going on in your inner landscape. Sometimes, in that moment, you may experience a release, a relaxation, an ahaa moment.

Just the other day, for example, I was feeling restless and agitated and found myself heading towards the kitchen. That’s when I stopped, breathed, and observed what was going on. As I stood witness, I first noticed feelings of guilt surface, then a memory attached to the feeling. When I allowed myself to be with what is, I could let the feeling surface and then I had the choice what to do next. If I had proceeded into the kitchen to soothe the feelings with food, I would have stuffed the original feeling back inside and had to do deal with the guilt and anger of overeating instead. I breathed into the feeling, let it go and surrounded myself with as much love and compassion as I could muster up in that moment. The guilty feelings, the agitation and restlessness were released and I was filled with calm and compassion and felt re-energized.

Always, whenever possible, practice loving kindness with yourself. It is the ultimate healer. Remember, if you could have done it better, you would have. So begin where you are, be kind and patient and loving. And practice some of the tips above. You can and will soon enjoy a balanced and joyful relationship with food, your body and your life.

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