To develop a healthy relationship with food, become more mindful of your eating habits. Take your time and notice everything you can about the experience.
Many of us have food relationship issues. Whether we were raised to see food as a reward (if you’re good, we’ll get ice cream); as punishment (no TV until you finish your vegetables); or as a scarce commodity (who knows when more food is coming, so eat up now!), our learned response to food becomes automatic.
Becoming aware of how we relate to food is essential to our quality of life, especially for those with chronic health issues caused by poor nutrition or excessive intake of food. A better awareness of why, what, and when we eat, will help us make better food choices over time. Better food choices translate to healthier weight, fewer chronic diseases and better overall quality of life.
Here are six ways you may become more mindful about your eating, and in the process, you may find you enjoy your food even more than ever. Studies suggest you may lose weight with these techniques, even without embarking on a “diet.”
1. Before you put the next bite of food into your mouth, pause for a moment. Think about why you are eating. Are you really hungry? Are you thirsty? Sleepy? Bored? Frustrated? Are you looking to change the focus of your thoughts to something more pleasing? Are you lonely? Now eat that bite and note how you feel again. If you are serious about having a healthier relationship with food, start keeping a food and feelings journal to help you identify trends you can address. It may be enlightening!
2. When you eat, take your time and notice everything you can about the experience. We tend to watch TV or carry on conversations during meals. However, some find eating in silence enhances the enjoyment of the meal, helping you pay attention to both the food and your body’s response to it. You may find you eat less with more satisfaction! Try this the next time you sit down to dinner: Pause and take it all in before you grab a fork. Turn off the TV and look at your plate. Notice the color and texture and smell. How does the food feel in your mouth? Crunchy or smooth; warm or cold? Take your time. Savor each bite.
3. Give your brain a chance! Chew thoroughly to stimulate all the digestive enzymes. Ever notice when you start chewing a starchy food like a wheat cracker it initially tastes salty, but the more you chew it a sweetness develops? That’s an enzyme at work! Also, take time to let the feeling of satiety emerge. It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach and brain to relay the signals that you are full. Time yourself the next time you eat. You may be surprised how fast your plate of food disappears. Don’t reach for seconds until your mind is satisfied that your body is still hungry. Talk, drink water, take a walk, wash the dishes. Just don’t eat more until you’re sure you need more.
4. Have you ever had a spontaneous “mmmm”? Sometimes food is so good we just have to verbalize it. The next time you think “mmmm,” just blurt it out — even if it’s before you take a bite. See how that makes you feel.
5. Appreciate your food. We are fortunate to live where food is bountiful, but you may be surprised to know that the USDA reported that in 2010, 14.5 percent of all America households have food security issues at least part of the time. These American families experience disruptions in regular eating or they are indeed going hungry. Many people give a spiritual thank you before eating. Try expressing gratitude for the source of the food or the person who prepares it, if you don’t already do so.
6. Lighten up, not only on your food but on your stress level. Take the quality of your food seriously. Feed your body with the best nutrition you can afford. But when it comes to meal-time, enjoy yourself. Try not to eat while you are stressed out or angry. Eating under duress can result in poor digestion or trigger gastro-esophageal reflux. Wait a little while until you are calmer. Then relax and enjoy your meal.
Check out the iThriveMD.com resource lists for books that I like on Mindful Eating.
Dr. Vivian Poetter of Farmville owns iThrive, a combination medical practice and guided weight loss center with wellness coaching, at 610-A Old Tar Village Road in Winterville. Call 78-0706.