Cheung says. That's essentially the same concept that drove the development of the pro-posed U. Dietary Guidelines, which, for the first time, considered sustainability of food crops as well as the health benefits of the foods. Although the ideal mindful-eating food choices are similar to the Mediterranean diet—centered on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, seeds, nuts, and vegetable oils—the technique can be applied to a cheeseburger and fries. By truly paying attention to the food you eat, you may indulge in these types of foods less often.
In essence, mindful eating means being fully attentive to your food—as you buy, prepare, serve, and consume it.
The Surprising Benefits of Mindful Eating | HuffPost Life
However, adopting the practice may take more than a few adjustments in the way you approach meals and snacks. Cheung and her co-author, Buddhist spiritual leader Thich Nhat Hanh, suggest several practices that can help you get there, including those listed below. Begin with your shopping list. Consider the health value of every item you add to your list and stick to it to avoid impulse buying when you're shopping. Fill most of your cart in the produce section and avoid the center aisles—which are heavy with processed foods—and the chips and candy at the check-out counter.
Come to the table with an appetite— but not when ravenously hungry. If you skip meals, you may be so eager to get anything in your stomach that your first priority is filling the void instead of enjoying your food. Start with a small portion.
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It may be helpful to limit the size of your plate to nine inches or less. Appreciate your food. Pause for a minute or two before you begin eating to contemplate everything and everyone it took to bring the meal to your table. Silently express your gratitude for the opportunity to enjoy delicious food and the companions you're enjoying it with. Bring all your senses to the meal. When you're cooking, serving, and eating your food, be attentive to color, texture, aroma, and even the sounds different foods make as you prepare them. As you chew your food, try identifying all the ingredients, especially seasonings.
Take small bites. It's easier to taste food completely when your mouth isn't full. Put down your utensil between bites. Chew thoroughly. Chew well until you can taste the essence of the food. You may have to chew each mouthful 20 to 40 times, depending on the food. You can do a quick consciousness evaluation and adjustment on yourself at any point in the eating process — before, during or after any meal. When our consciousness is engaged and our attention properly placed, our eating tends to be appropriate.
When our consciousness is distracted by some other compelling need, we are far less attentive to the eating experience, and may eat to our detriment. The symptoms of eating unconsciously appear in three ways: physically, intellectually and emotionally. The physical symptoms of unconscious eating are easy enough to observe — overweight being by far the most obvious and common. Then there are the mental symptoms.
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Unconscious eating may also be symptomatic of emotional issues. When we use food to calm our emotional hurts, to numb the experience of the emotion, our consciousness is primarily focused on finding a distraction. In many families, childhood injuries were treated with a dual cure: Band-Aids and cookies. The cookie was meant to distract attention from the hurt knee, and eating became associated with masking and disguising pain.
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Some of us take that lesson into adulthood, and without being aware of it, depend on food to take the edge off all kinds of discomforts. It is very common to medicate uncomfortable emotional states with food. The primary emotional aspect of eating has to do with self-esteem. When self-esteem is positive, and confidence is strong, we are far more conscious of eating. When we feel vulnerable, and self-esteem is low or negative, we are far less conscious and may turn to food to artificially boost our confidence.
Does it chide you for not being able to stop? If the dialogue is demeaning or destructive, blaming or judgmental, then the risk of unconscious eating is higher. For some, eating is actually a way of quieting or droning out the inner critic. Practicing regular self-observation is a great way to improve your conscious eating skills and reduce your risk of self-sabotage.
Use the worksheet at right to identify the places you need to reduce your risk. Be gentle if you catch yourself slipping toward the risky end of any of the consciousness scales: This is simply your opportunity to make a better choice. Remember, we tend to be more successful when we are kind and compassionate with ourselves. Like the boy at the movies, we all need cues from time to time to help us see what we are doing. Learning to recognize our symptoms is an important first step.
Adjusting the Attention Deficit
Adjusting our position on the consciousness continuum is the next. Remember, if you are tired of kicking yourself, you can always change seats. Margaret Churchill Margaret Churchill, M. She can be reached at churc tc. Your email address will not be published. City and state are only displayed in our print magazine if your comment is chosen for publication.
Perfect article. Thank you so much for sharing these words. It was all I needed to know. You described my feelings when I trick myself when I want to eat something tasted for me. Usually, I take myself thinking about food, not necessary junk food, but about whay should I make for lunch, dinner or snacks. At first glance, I thought it was a problem because I was constantly thinking about that, but your article relieves my heart. Thank you for this article! I struggle with conscious eating on a daily basis.
My cravings come on so strong that I weaken and give in. I am going to try the breathing exercises to see if that helps.