No More “Groundhog Day” Eating! Welcome the Art of Mindful Eating

by | Nov 22, 2016

The holidays are fast approaching so let’s have a quick chat.  While we generally celebrate holidays around food, which is joyful, I often hear people refer to overeating as something like a Groundhog Day phenomena: one in which year after year we 1) overindulge and apparently 2) have little control. We tend to eat to the point of exhaustion, sometimes to later regret it, and at times even feel guilt and shame. We’ve all done this at one point or another so this chat aims to enhance your lifestyle and help regain control of your choices without restrictive diets.

I love running and weight training, but can’t remember the last time I did any of it. I sometimes overindulge in junk food and other unhealthy foods, especially if I’m feeling “crappy”. However, what has allowed me to maintain a healthy mind and body is that I keep a mindful approach to eating and movement. This helps me avoid the downward spiral of self-blaming and instead brings me back to conscious choices.  There are very few foods I completely stay away from, and instead employ an approach of moderation and no judgment.

First, I’d like to take you on a visual tour- Have you introduced a new food to a baby or watched someone do it? When it comes to savoring food, babies do it right: they are present… they taste, bite, and swallow (or spit it up!); they are engaging in their own mindful eating!  You may have watched videos of the entertaining faces they make as they try new foods.  Some of the lemon tasting videos have even gone viral.

Now, about you? When was the last time you tasted food, felt the food on your palate, and tasted the subtle flavors in each bite?  How often do you find yourself rushing through your food? How often do you solely use food as unclassified fuel to keep running your wonderful engine?

But wait a minute, how did we get here? As you know, this did not happen in a vacuum, or in one day.  As a society, due to many factors including economics and others, we have gone from three meals a day (which often happened sitting together) to a grab and go pattern. Factor in electronics and you have one of the most common ways we sabotage ourselves. When connect with our phone and social media, we disconnect from food.  Becoming mindful is becoming aware of which station you’re on, if you are not in the food tasting station, turn the dial until you find it.

As you may have experienced, we tend to overeat when we are distracted.  By the time we realize how much we’ve eaten, we’ve eaten past satiety to the point of exhaustion.

So…what is mindful eating?  Mindfulness practices derive from Eastern World philosophies, specifically Buddhist traditions, and they tell us how important it is to (purposely) pay attention to the present moment.  In the words of Jon Kabat-Zinn (2003), “The awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.” Mindfulness is being aware of our thoughts, feelings, and actions. And with practice, positive changes will occur in your brain and your body. Unlike dieting, which may lead to feelings of deprivation, mindful eating allows for growth, greater self-awareness, and a more balanced life.

Now back to you- This holiday season, put away your phones while at the table!  When you are eating, give your attention to the flavors, the taste, the texture… can you identify any herbs, seasoning, etc.? By using all your senses and by exploring and experiencing food without judgment, you can change your relationship to food.  And as you become more mindful, you will naturally make better choices in food and in other aspects of your life.

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