What Is Mindful Eating?

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Eating mindfully means eating with awareness. We often mindlessly eat on the run, in front of the television, while surfing the ‘net, even while driving. When eating mindlessly, we often eat the wrong things and end up eating more than we intended.

When eating mindlessly, you are often distracted, you aren’t aware of the internal cues that your body is sending. Your body knows when to stop eating and that is often well before you do stop. The key to healthy, mindful eating is allowing yourself to listen to these internal cues. Mindful eating is about listening to your body and being aware of what your body needs.

For mindful eating to be successful, you must:

Eat only when you are hungry. Hunger is your body’s way of telling you that you need nutrition. True hunger is not the same as cravings, eating out of boredom or habit, or emotional eating. You feel hunger in the pit of your stomach, not just a vague feeling that it’s “time “ to eat or eating because you feel that you should. Depending on the amount of food you eat, you need to eat about every four to five hours.

Eliminate distractions. Avoid eating in front of the television, standing over the sink or while driving. Sit down at the table and comfortably eat your meal in a relaxed, leisurely fashion. Avoid rushing through your meal or you’ll often end up eating more than your body needs. Chew each bite slowly and deliberately and savor the flavors and textures of your meal.

Be aware of your cravings. Often cravings are signals that you need a particular nutrient. Craving salty foods may indicate a need for sodium, craving meat may be caused by a protein deficiency, or craving bananas, a potassium deficiency. This should not be confused with sugar cravings which are the result of a physical and psychological dependence on sugar. When satisfying your cravings, choose healthy alternatives for what you are craving.

Stop when you are full. We are conditioned from a very young age to “clean your plate” or “no dessert until you finish your dinner.” Once you begin practicing mindful eating, you’ll become aware of being comfortably full but not stuffed. You should not feel uncomfortable after eating, if your stomach feels bloated, you have eaten too much. Stop occasionally during your meal and determine if you are still hungry or if you are eating solely because there is food in front of you.

When practicing mindful eating you will:

Make healthier food choices. Being aware of each meal will prompt you to make healthier choices. Wise food choices promote a healthy body and body image.

Eliminate emotional eating. We often eat for reasons that have nothing to do with food. Mindful eating will help you be aware of your emotions and avoid eating to fill a void.

Lose weight. People who eat mindfully are more likely to make healthier food choices and then stop eating when feeling full, taking in fewer calories.

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