Eating Mindfully: Nourish your body with every bite

Why eat?  The answer to that question has changed drastically over time.  Eating was once one of the most basic necessities of life.  Food was gathered each day for the sole purpose of sustaining life.  This is far from the case for many Americans.  Food is now used as entertainment, rewards, comfort and for social activities.  Rarely is food used as a means to fuel our bodies.  In order to obtain or maintain health, it’s necessary to change how we view and approach the way we eat.  Here are some simple tips for eating mindfully.

Ask yourself these few simple questions

·      Why do I eat?: What is driving my desire to eat?

·      When do I eat?: Do I feel hungry, think about eating and decide to eat?

·      What do I eat?: Is it nourishing my body or simple making me feel good temporarily?

·      How do I get the food I’m eating?: Do I prepare the food myself with thoughts as to what I’m consuming?

·      How much am I eating?: Is it appropriate for my needs?

·      Where does the fuel go?: How is my body using the food I’m putting in it?

Listen to your body

·      Only eat when you are hungry.  It is helpful to keep a food and hunger journal.  Look for connections between the types of foods you eat and the time of day when you’re hungry.

·      Don’t eat when you are bored, stressed or emotional (happy, sad, excited).  If you think you are hungry, consider when you last ate and that what you feel may be something other than hunger.

·      Stop eating before you feel full.  It takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to register that your stomach is full.  If you eat until you feel full, you will over eat and feel uncomfortable.

Be present

·      Focus on the task at hand – eating a nutritious meal to nourish your body.

·      Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by television, computers or other devices. 

·      Eat meals at a specific place designed for eating.  Don’t stand at the kitchen counter, sit on the couch or at your desk.  If you have to eat while driving or in a meeting, plan ahead.  Have the correct portion size of a healthy snack available so that you don’t overeat or buy whatever may be available.

·      Take time to really taste the food you are eating.  Use all of your senses.  Often you will find that the junk food you enjoy, doesn’t taste as good as you thought.

·      Thoroughly chew each bite and put your fork down while chewing.

Eat foods that are nutritious

·      Look online, in cookbooks and in magazines for new healthy recipes.  Food can both be good for you and taste great too!

·      Eat more foods with less packaging and ingredients (and ones you can read!).  The majority of your shopping cart should be filled with foods from the perimeter of the grocery store.

·      Try a new grain, bean or vegetable each week.  It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, eating the same foods over and over.  Add them to your favorite slow cooker recipe.

Think about where your food came from

·      Think through the entire process of how your food got to the point where you are eating it: planting, growing, harvesting, packaging, shipping, stocking, preparation, and cooking.

·      Know where your food came from and learn about the ingredients.  Buy local whenever possible.

·      Appreciate quality food and the people who worked to produce it.

·      If possible, grow a garden or plant of few herbs in pots for fresh flavoring.

Enjoy meals with others at set times and places

·      Eating with others helps us to slow down and appreciate our meal.  We tend to eat like those around us.  Try eating lunch at work or going out to dinner with people who are positive and healthy.

·      Plan to eat your meals and snacks at set times.  This will help prevent extreme hunger or unhealthy snacking.  Don’t eat after dinner or before going to bed.

·      Make meals with family last.  Talk about each other’s day and spend quality time together.

Use food appropriately

·      Never reward yourself or anyone else with food, especially children.  Instead of using food as a reward, take a trip to the park or buy yourself a new book.

·      Don’t associate exercise with eating.  Fuel your body accordingly with lean protein and complex carbohydrates but don’t eat an ice cream sundae because you walked 2 miles.

·      Drink plenty of water.  Often times hunger is mistaken for thirst.  Make sure you are hydrated before eating.

·      Are you hungry or just tired?  People tend to eat more when they are tired.  Try getting more sleep and see if you are less hungry during the day.

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