NOTE: The opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of Shortlister
It’s Monday morning and you’re late for work so you have to skip breakfast. When you finally make it to the office, anxious and ravenous, do you a) decide to slowly munch on a handful of raisins or b) hungrily devour half that box of Chips Ahoy in the office kitchen without a second thought?
Most of us lean towards the comfortable feel-good standbys that stock our pantries, especially on difficult days. Both apathy and stress can lead you down a road paved with buffets, fast food and carryout.
When eating becomes a thoughtless habit motivated by emotion, busy people tend to lose sight of the basic role food plays in our health. Mindful eating – being fully attentive to your food choices and routines – can help reverse some of the unhealthy habits we’ve developed as a result of the daily grind.
FIVE TIPS FOR MINDFUL EATING
You don’t get extra points for finishing first. In fact, speed eating doesn’t give your body time to adjust to what you’re consuming. It actually takes the brain 20 minutes to send the satiation signal to the stomach, which is why we often unconsciously overeat. To counter this, it’s as simple as doing what your mother always told you to do. Try:
- Sitting down to eat
- Chewing each bite 25 times
- Setting your fork down between bites
- Sipping water between bites
- Eating snacks and foods that require some work (think sunflower seeds, pistachios, shellfish or pomegranate)
Eat food, not feelings
In a perfect world, that box of Chips Ahoy would not only be emotionally satisfying, but also chock-full of nutritional value. This is not, however, a perfect world. It is important to find a balance between the comfort foods we want and healthy ones we need. But I don’t want to eat a handful of raisins when I’m stressed, you might be thinking. Truth is, if you take the time to introduce healthy options into your diet, you’re likely to find that some of them aren’t as terrifying as you thought. Giving yourself more variety increases the likelihood that you make smarter decisions, even when you’re emotional.
Speak your body’s language
It’s easy to listen to the voice in your head, but listening to your body can be a challenge. We eat when we think we want to, not always when we physically need to. By learning some of your body’s personal hunger triggers, you can differentiate when you really need food or when you just want a piece of cake because. Some common feelings that are probably “false alarm” triggers include:
- Teeth Hunger: the desire to have something to chew on to stave off anxiety
- Mouth Hunger: Tasting something (like that piece of cake) that makes your mouth water, even though your body isn’t actually hungry
- Mind Hunger: Thinking you should eat because ‘it’s time to,’ hungry or not
- Thirst: When you’re running on E, we often think food will replenish our energy sources. Often though, water is the actual answer, not a snack – healthy or not
Mindful eating is consistent eating
Vegging out in front of the TV with last night’s Chinese or wantonly scavenging through cabinets and eating as you go wire the brain for mindless eating. Instead, try to eat at scheduled times and in regular places (that means at a table, with a plate and utensils!). This can help your brain make healthy habits that limit indiscriminate snacking and trigger your body to be hungry at predetermined times.
Feed your focus
If you’re eating (and working, and talking on the phone, and flipping through paperwork) you probably aren’t doing any of those things well. Distracted eating limits your ability to focus on your body’s needs and hunger signals. If you take the time to make eating a singular activity, you’ll probably end up eating less and enjoying it more.
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Article By Meg Spencer, MS
Meg Spencer is a National Director of Coach Training & Development at Wellness Coaches USA. Meg earned a Master of Science degree in Exercise Physiology (1993) and her Bachelor of Arts in Language Arts (1983) from the University of Delaware. She is also a certified WellCoach through Wellcoaches and an Intrinsic Coach through Totally Coached. Meg joined Wellness Coaches USA in November of 2005.