Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mindful Eating: The benefits

Over the last few days I've been sifting through old digital photos in an effort to properly organize and store them for safekeeping. As I browse through these photos, I am instantly brought back to those captured moments. I catch myself smiling, laughing, or even tearing up depending on the pic.  Sometimes the memories are so vivid that I can almost hear, taste,or even smell certain things. That is what I love about photography...capturing a moment in that will never be again.

So, why am I talking about old photographs when this post is about mindful eating?  Well, I believe that mindful eating involves capturing a moment in a way similar to photography.  With mindful eating, we completely plug into the moment physically and mentally while leaving the judgments, criticisms, and worries behind, and we simply enjoy it for what it is...not what we think it could or should be.

In my last post, I presented four of my ideas of what mindful eating entails, and one of them was: "We direct our full attention to the immediate eating experience."  Many of us are so distracted by noise while we're eating.  Physical noise, such as the t.v., computer, or music, may be drowning out the experience.  Sometimes our mealtimes are inundated with psychological noise, such as "to-do lists", emotions, or an "inner critic" judging our eating. Regardless of the type of noise, if you are one whose meals are occupied by chatter, then you may not be getting the most out of your eating experiences.

And this brings me to how eating mindfully will benefit you, me, US!  Yes, food fulfills our basic physiological need for nourishment. You know, energy and vitamins and minerals, oh my! But I believe that food and eating serves a deeper purpose. Why else do so many foods look, smell, and taste so darn good?  Why do certain components of food trigger the release "feel good" chemicals in the body?  Why do {some} of us enjoy preparing it?  Why does it bring us together for so many celebrations? It's part of the fabric that supports our physiological, psychological, social, and cultural well-being.  Unfortunately, I don't think many of us think of eating in this way. Instead, some of us see it as the "enemy", a chore, too complex or confusing, something that must be done, or something that we dread or fear.

Mindful eating brings us to a more peaceful place with food. Wouldn't it be great if there were no difference between eating a piece of chocolate vs. eating an apple?  We aren't good if we eat the apple and bad if we eat the chocolate.  Mindful eating brings balance to our eating. It doesn't have to be the UFC (Ultimate Food Championship;) -- you know, US vs. FOOD.  On the contrary, mindful eating allows us the awareness to make thoughtful decisions about what or how much we're eating. No longer do we need to discontinue eating because the diet, calorie content, or something else told us to but rather we can stop because the experience is no longer pleasant.  Mindful eating allows us the pause needed to become more aware of hidden desires and cravings that we have for food, and in turn, this enlightenment may dissolve or help manage the cravings.  Above all, mindful eating helps us treat ourselves with more kindness!  We must eat to live, yes, but let's take it beyond that. Let's restore some of the pleasure that can be experienced through food and eating...without guilt, shame, judgment, or even indifference.

Stay tuned for my next post on getting started.


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