Mindful Eating: Slowing down can increase satisfaction

Did you know that meditation and medicine both come from the same Sanskript root word meaning “taking care”. We all want to take care of ourselves. I talk with most of my clients about a mindfulness or meditation practice. The benefits are huge — reduced stress, better sleep, enhanced immune function, lowered pain levels, improved mood, lowered blood pressure, decreased gastrointestinal difficulties, weight loss, hormone balance (especially in menopause), and more.

Many of my clients tell me that they can’t meditate for whatever reason. There are many, many kinds of meditation and mindfulness practices. If one way does not work for you, it is worth playing around with another or two or three to find what resonates with you. One of my favorite mindfulness activities to practice, and I mean practice because it is not easy, is mindful eating.

Mindful eating is when we pay attention to our bodies and our food when we are eating (or drinking). Babies are rock stars at mindful eating. They only eat when they are physically hungry and they stop when they are full. When they are tired they sleep, when they want to play, they play, and when they are angry or hurt they yell and/or cry. I can remember feeding my boys when they were toddlers and when they were done, they were done. If I tried to give them one more bite, they would lock their lips closed, and bat the food away (the dog loved that because food would go flying).

As we get older we stop listening to the messages that our bodies are telling us. We eat when we are hungry, when we see food that looks good, because the clock says it is time to eat, and when we are nervous, angry, lonely, frustrated, and happy. We follow rules (that we made up ourselves or that we have been told by others) because we have heard they are good for us or help us reach our ideal weight and when we don’t follow those rules, we can feel guilty and defeated.

Mindful eating teaches us to be in the moment, to eat when we are hungry, and to stop when we have had enough. It is a tool that helps us slow down so that our digestive processes can get started and don’t get overloaded. It is tool that helps us be fully present and enjoy our food. It helps us see colors, textures, notice smells, and offer gratitude. It helps us figure out which foods make each of us feel energetic and fueled, and which foods make us feel tired, anxious, depressed, and/or physically uncomfortable.

Thanksgiving is next week. The holiday season is upon us. For many of us, the holidays and this year with everything turned upside down, can trigger overeating, eating for others, eating when we are not hungry, grab and go eating, forgetting to eat, and guilt around enjoying some of those special holiday foods.

I worked with a client several years ago who had made many changes to her diet. She was feeling good and in balance. Then we came upon November and she started to feel felt anxious at the thought of holiday food. For her, going into her inlaw’s house and seeing the cheese plate had triggered a binge eat year after year. She held a belief that cheese was a “bad” food, but she loved it. Managing cooking, kids, inlaws, and other family, away from home was stressful. Add that to the feeling she got from looking at a tray full of cheese she thought was “bad”, was too much. She would eat a whole lot of cheese very quickly, stuffing down her feelings and not even enjoying the flavor.

We worked on mindful eating. She made a plan to slow down, breathe, try to be in the moment for as much as Thanksgiving day as she could. She made an agreement with herself that when she was truly hungry she would fix herself a plate with several slices of cheese. She gave herself permission to go back for more if she was still hungry and if her body wanted more.

When she got hungry, she fixed herself a plate. She looked at the different colors and textures, She smelled them as she lifted each bite to her mouth. She really tasted each cheese, savoring each bite. She found that she truly loved the taste of one of the cheeses and that one did not taste good to her at all.

For the first time that she could remember, she left the uneaten bites of cheese on her plate while she enjoyed one more sliver of the cheese she truly loved. She did feel guilty or overly full. In fact, she had room for the rest of the Thanksgiving dinner and to enjoy some of her other favorite foods.

By slowing down and eating mindfully, she learned that cheese did agree with her body and that by savoring it, being in the moment, that she could have a nourishing relationship with her body and with cheese, this food she had felt so much anxiety and grief around.

If you would like to learn more about mindful eating or are dreading the holidays because you are worried about being tempted, overeating, or “going off” your diet, reach out to me by email at barb@barbsobel.com, or if you are a client send me a message through the portal at www.practicebetter.io. Let’s talk. I can help you find some solutions.

Looking for some new recipes this holiday season? Download my holiday recipe booklet at https://barbsobel.com/holiday-recipes/

Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving.