Mindful Eating: Making Peace with Food, by Deb Schaefer

Recently, I shared a blog about skincare and how important it is to spend just a little time pampering our outer shells for that healthy glow as you age. Today I’d like to address the importance of mindful eating or what we put inside our bodies that makes a difference in how we look, how we feel and most of all, how our whole body reacts to the choices we make.

Many of us were raised to believe that three square meals a day are the norm. But are you really always hungry – or only hungry – in the morning, at noon or after five o’clock in the evening? If no two of us are alike, why do we collectively fuel our bodies at the same times throughout the day? Let’s look at what mindful eating can do for you to possibly help improve how we feel and maybe even how we look.

Simply put, mindful eating is learning to pay attention. Rather than putting food into your mouth unconsciously, you learn to exercise your senses so you can make choices that support health and well-being. For example, do you always eat because you’re hungry? Think about this for a minute. Many of us eat out of boredom, anxiety, stress or simply because the clock tells us it’s meal time. This is what I like to call an unconscious action – doing it out of habit. Instead, listen to your body; it will let you know when it needs to be refueled. And when that time comes, be mindful of what you choose to fill the tank.

I found the following tips to be helpful when making better food choices: Picture1

  • Learn to recognize physical hunger cues, instead of non-hunger triggers (such as boredom or stress) – eat with purpose.
  • Be aware of the effects that certain food choices may have on your emotions or even the after-effects on your figure.
  • Eat slowly (preferably with no distractions) and only until you’re full.
  • Pay attention to what you’re eating (sure, it’s easier to grab a few cookies for a quick fix, but your body may be asking for the proper fuel that comes from taking the time to prep a spinach salad with protein).

For roughly the first 54 years of my life, I ate what I wanted, when I wanted. I didn’t pay too much attention to the why, when or what. I just ate…because, why not? However, over the last year or so I noticed that I could no longer tolerate certain foods that I had been enjoying all my life. Outside of some weight gain, which in itself is depressing, I also noticed changes in my skin, hair and even my bathroom habits. There was no question in my mind – my eating habits and food choices needed to change. For me, being mindful of the when and what has proven to make a tremendous difference.

Below are some guidelines that work best for me:

  • Concentrate on shopping the perimeter of the grocery store – incorporating more fresh fruits, veggies and fresh deli meats or fish.
  • Schedule ample time to read product labels when grocery shopping – focusing on higher protein and lower carb items.
  • Keep a food diary – write down everything you eat for one week and be sure to note how you feel (more energy, tired, sick, full, hungry, etc.). The not-so-good items will jump out on the page – trust me!
  • When it’s time to eat, put down your phone, turn off the television and walk away from your computer. Use this time for concentrating on the task at hand – eating.
  • Respect and appreciate the meal – sit down, relax, eat slowly and savor the flavor.

It didn’t take an enormous amount of time for me to see results. I have more energy (if that’s even possible) and no longer see food as a crutch for my emotions or stress level. I even lost a little weight! Now, don’t misunderstand me, I haven’t completely given up on pasta, pizza or even a piece of chocolate cake. But, I am making every effort to limit how often I consume these guilty pleasures because I know as much as I enjoy the taste, it’s rarely worth sacrificing how they make me feel.

Learning to transform your relationship with food isn’t easy. Our autopilot sways us in the same direction repeatedly – the mindlessness road. Being present for every moment will help break the not-so-healthy habitual patterns. Make peace with your food and take the mindfulness path to a healthier YOU.

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