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Mindful Eating Tips

Mindful Eating - Part 1

Did you know March is National Nutrition Month?  In recognition of this month’s theme I’m making nutrition the focus of this and the next two newsletters. We are going to focus on mindful eating. What is mindful eating? It’s when we think about the what, where, when, why, and how we are eating. We do a lot of mindless eating which leads to various complications from weight gain (or loss) to chronic diseases that will impact our quality of life. Here are 3 things to think about the next time you eat something or think about eating something!

Are you hungry or are you _________?

You can fill in this blank with a variety of answers like, happy, sad, stressed, angry, bored; the list can go on and on. There is a good chance your desire to eat is driven by something other than hunger. Try this to determine the reason you are eating. For the next week keep a small notebook (or use the notes on your phone) and write down how you are feeling each time you eat something, whether it’s a snack or a meal it doesn’t matter, write down what you are eating and how you feel. 

Next to each entry you will put two numbers, the first is your physical hunger on a scale of 1 – 10 (1 being not hungry at all and I ate because it was there, 5 would be I felt hungry but probably could have gone without, to 10 meaning I am very hungry and my tummy is growling!). Next, rate also on a scale of 1 – 10, your level of emotional discomfort (1 being no discomfort and everything is fine, 5 would be just feeling a bit off, to 10 I’m feeling very emotional, whatever that emotion may be).

By keeping track of this you will see if you are really hungry or if you are eating because of how you feel. Once you can see if there is a correlation you can be more mindful and find other ways to cope with emotional discomfort that is not food-related. If you did not discover a correlation that’s great, you are not an emotional eater.

Set a Timer

Have you ever finished a meal but you still feel hungry and immediately are looking for something more to eat? Chances are your body has not yet told your brain that you have eaten and are full. If you do grab something else to eat I can almost guarantee in about 30 minutes you are going to feel overly full and will wonder why you just ate that additional food. A perfect example is when you go out to a restaurant, you eat and then are asked if you want dessert, you think yeah why not I don’t do it all of the time, you eat the dessert and then feel completely overstuffed.

When you have the urge to continue to eat after finishing a meal, set a timer for 10 – 20 minutes. Walk away from the kitchen/pantry and do something else. Go for a walk, fold that laundry that is still in the basket, read a book, do something to take your mind off of eating whatever it was you were thinking of. There is a very good chance that it will be enough time for your brain to get the message that you are indeed full. Now, if after that time you are still truly hungry, make a good decision with a healthy snack to satisfy that hunger.

the celery rule

When you need to determine if you are really hungry, the “celery rule” is a way to do that. When you feel hungry, or you think you are hungry (this is usually between meals), tell yourself that the only choice you have to eat is celery. Why celery? Well most people don’t find celery, by itself, a very exciting snack. It doesn’t have much flavor, it does give you a crunch, but you’d probably rather have something more satisfying than a stick of celery. If you are indeed hungry you will “eat the celery”. Am I really telling you to keep some celery on hand? Yes, at this point and until you can make the necessary mind shift to identify true hunger, it would be a good idea.

Thinking BEFORE you eat is going to help you be healthy BEFORE you NEED to be healthy. Small changes shape our habits so let’s make some small mindful changes when it comes to eating.

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