Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mindful Eating: How to get started

When some people hear mindful eating, they might cringe thinking, "Oh no, does this involve having to do a yoga pose or saying 'Ohmmmm' every time I eat?"  While it can, it doesn't have to!  As Jim Elliot said, "Wherever you are, be all there."  Notice the all..not kind of there, not sort of there, not halfway there.   " all there."  While there are no rules and regulations around it, the immediate goal is to create space between us and the noise so that we can enter the eating experience with a clear state of mind that allows us to be fully present in mind and body.  Listed below are several ways to bring you to the eating moment before you even start eating. While it's not a comprehensive, all-inclusive list, it's a start. In future posts, I will discuss ways to check in with your mind and body throughout a meal, too.
  • Sit down.  Several years ago, I read a book entitled,  When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair: 50 Ways to Feel Thin, Gorgeous, and Happy.  The title and the story behind it provide an interesting idea. What would happen if we plopped ourselves down on a chair the next time we found ourselves face in the fridge or pantry looking for that...something?  I believe that act would bring greater awareness to the moment and give us just enough pause to reflect on our choices. So, if there is a time that you have a habit of not sitting down to eat for a meal or snack, give it a try.
  • Silence!  Get rid of the noise. Turn off the t.v., iPod, or computer.  Stop working or reading the book.  Switch off all the chatter and regain focus over your meals.
  • Location, location, location.  Designate a specific room or place where you plan to eat.  The dining room, kitchen table, or breakfast nook work great at home.  At work?  Leave your desk and head to the employee lounge or cafeteria.Do this, and you'll move yourself away from the noise.
  • Bring curiosity to the table.  My two-year old loves to ask lots of questions about the food we eat before she digs in. Her inquisitiveness shows me that she's exploring her food, and I love that! We can learn from it!  Taking a curious perspective helps to direct our attention to the present moment.  Ask yourself questions that focus on what you're aware of or what you can experience with the food on this occasion:  Check in with your body.  Am I hungry?  How hungry am I?  Will this satisfy me right now?  Use your senses to explore the sight, smell, or feel of food. 
  • Relax.  Just a few minutes of relaxation before a meal can create distance with all that mental clutter that we often bring to the table.  There are a variety of ways to do this.  Practice a few yoga poses (yep, I went there;)  In fact, some dietitians and therapists I know recommend this, especially for clients with eating disorders or gastrointestinal issues like IBS. Try prayer, thanksgiving, deep breathing exercises, or mental imagery to quiet the mind. My personal favorite is progressive relaxation.  I actually use this with my students prior to at least one exam.  Meditate. Rick Warren says that if you know how to worry, you know how to meditate. 
Are you ready to give mindful eating a shot?  Start with one mindful eating strategy before one meal or snack this week, and discover the moment!


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