The act of eating is natural, pleasurable, and healthy for controlling hunger. It is a necessary part of life in order to attain nutrients and energy. If we did not eat, we would die. Unfortunately in our society we have evolved our eating habits into unhealthy, obsessive, and guilt ridden tendencies that have taken the joy and desire out of eating. We have caused a dangerous state of mind where we would rather mindlessly eat in apathy or avoid eating altogether. To correct our eating patterns and improve our nutrition we must learn the art of mindful eating.
Benefits of Mindful Eating
- Learn the difference between your physical and emotional hunger cues
- Recognize why you eat even when you aren’t hungry
- Reduce overeating and weight gain
- Improve the function of the digestive system
- Pick foods that are both nutritious and delicious
- Eat less, while feeling more satisfied
- Learn to solve emotional triggers
- Gain more energy from better food sources
Instead of asking yourself “Am I Hungry?”, ask yourself “How Am I Hungry?” by answering the questions in the mindful eating cycle. If your answers seem to reflect true hunger, rather than an emotional response like: sadness, or boredom, then prepare yourself a nutritious meal and take the time to enjoy it. Savor the flavors. If, on the other hand, your answers reflect an emotional response, step away from the kitchen and focus on solving the direct problem rather than attempting to bury it with food.
Ask yourself these questions to get a better understanding of your own personal relationship with food, to determine which aspects you need to focus on to eat more mindfully.
When you know more about why you eat, you’ll be in a more stable position to control how, when, and what you eat. Many of us mindlessly eat, not caring what the food tastes like, how good it is for us, or how much we shovel into our bodies, as long as it gives us something to do with our hands and our mouths for a little while. The goal of food is not to be a time waster though, it’s to nourish our bodies and minds to support complex physiological and neurological functions. Mindful eating teaches us to listen to our bodies cues and follow a more natural eating pattern.
Ask yourself the questions in the mindful eating cycle and pay attention to your answers. If you are truly hungry, proceed with the following steps.
Make your meals from fresh, natural, organic ingredients. Choose recipes that focus on meals high in protein, complex carbohydrates, and fresh vegetables.
Eat all of your meals at the table. Sitting down forces you to focus your attention onto the task at hand, eating. Sitting down at a table, re enforces the habit.
Eliminate as many distractions as you can so that you can focus the attention of your mind onto the natural cues of your body.
Slow down your eating habits. To help yourself do this you set your silverware down between bites.
While you don’t have to chew your food 100 times per mouthful, you should be taking the time to chew your food enough so that it is well on it’s way to being broken down by the time it hits your stomach.
Pay attention to the way your food tastes and eat for enjoyment as well as nourishment.
In addition to paying attention to the taste of your food you should also be giving attention to the way it smells, the textures it offers, and the sounds it emanates when you bite into it. The more that you can experience your food, the more likely you’ll be to slow down and enjoy it.
Meals are often social experiences and should not be avoided when practicing mindful eating. Rather than mindlessly eating while giving your full attention to random conversations, try to steer conversations to the tastes and experience of the foods on your plates.
When you eat mindfully you learn to understand your own personal hunger and satiety cues, so listening to your body in order to hear and react to those cues when they occur is paramount to the success of mindful eating.
If your body is telling you that you are full listen to it and stop eating. Overeating most often occurs because we either don’t notice the cues our body is providing or we notice them and choose to ignore them. Mindful eating means stopping when your body tells you to.
Nutrition and diet accounts for 80% of your total fitness, and mindful eating is the best way to ensure that you’re giving your dietary consumption the thought and attention it deserves. It may seem that mindful eating is a difficult habit that must be learned but in actually mindless eating was a learned behavior that we developed overtime in response to our emotions and shortened attention span. Learning the art of mindful eating is simply a return to an old habit.
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