Mindful Eating

Have you ever finished a meal and find yourself pushing your squeaky clean plate away from you only to groan in discomfort from an extremely full belly?  Yeah, it’s not pleasant… This was me growing up.  Meal after meal I never knew when enough was enough.  I’m not sure exactly when I lost the ability to recognize the feeling of fullness, but it had certainly escaped me.  My mom and dad would joke about my eating speed and even my husband has made reference to me eating like a prison inmate; as if someone would steal my food.

There are many factors that play into my need to cram food into my mouth at top speed; I have a fast metabolism so I’m always hungry, I have a very active and fast paced lifestyle, and I don’t like to waste time.

Does this sound familiar?

Is your life so packed full of duties and obligations that sitting down to a meal and being mindful of each bite sounds impossible?

eating

When did we get to a point where we don’t sit down at tables to eat and don’t take the time to breathe in the aroma of the meal we just created?

When did we stop taking pleasure in our food?

Knowing the sensation is of fullness is key to recognizing when your body has taken in an adequate amount of nutrients.  Our bodies tell us when enough is enough, when we need more, and even produces craving for things that will provided desired nutrients.  Yet, somehow we have learned to ignore these signals and cravings.

Over the past few years I have made it a goal of mine to re-educate myself on the sensation of feeling full.  It seems like such an easy task to take a bite of food and ask yourself, “is that enough?” but believe me it takes time and self-awareness.   Think back to the last time you had a meal.  Were you sitting, standing, scrolling through your phone, talking to someone, did you even look at your plate, smell you food?  How did it taste? Describe the food.  How did you feel after you finished?  If you can’t recall the food details like the taste or color or how you felt after you finished then you need to do some tuning in my friend!

I recently listened to an interview with Esther Blum who is, among many things, a clinical and holistic dietitian.   She made a comment that bounced around in my brain the rest of the day:

“If we don’t physically watch our food disappear from our plates, it is hard for our brains to register fullness or even the act of eating.”

If you eat at top speed or are distracted while eating then do you really see your food disappear from your plate?  Is this why our belly sends pain signals to stop us from eating before our brains have had time to register that we are even putting food our my mouths?! YIKES!

Here are some of the tricks I have been able to use myself to tune into my food:

Put away the phone and computer

Technology has given us the ability to multi-task like a dream, but when your concentration is spread out over many tasks then you are not full present at any of them.  Take a break from email and social media and enjoy your food!

Use your eyes and your nose

It seems odd to take a whiff of your plate but do it anyway!  Take in the sights and aroma of the edible creation on your plate.  Science has shown us that the very start of digestion is through scent.  The brain registers that there is food and then prepares the body for digestion.  If you dive into eating without pausing to ingest the sights and smells, then you have gained a head start on your brain and body.

Pause and be mindful

Put your fork down.  Take a deep breath.  How does your body feel? Are you enjoying the food?

Let your body process and report back to you.  This is how you can start to tune into the sensation of feeling full and satisfied.

You can always come back

This is my most favorite and valuable rule when it comes to eating.  You are not being wasteful if you don’t finish your plate, you don’t have to throw it out, just put it in the fridge and come back to it.  If you realize that you weren’t THAT hungry and you prepared a meal out of boredom or habit, then put it away and come back to it.

Remember that your body has an ability to tell you what it needs or doesn’t need, but you need to be able tune it to your individual body. 

No one knows YOU better than YOU do!