Being aware of what and how much you’re eating is very important to maintaining a healthy diet. Shaun Francis, author of EAT, MOVE, THINK, shares his advice on practicing mindful eating.
Mindful eating encourages one to slow down, experience, and enjoy the act of eating, paying attention not only to the food eaten but also to the circumstances around it: the hunger signals that prompted the act of eating in the first place, the taste and texture of the food, the body’s response to swallowing the food, the satiety sensation that, ideally, prompts the conclusion of the meal. The idea, then, particularly for problematic eaters, is to find out why you’re eating the way you do, with a view to changing any bad habits. The approach can provide remarkable benefits to people who are struggling with their weight—sometimes ironing out a few triggers is all that’s required to drop some pounds. Take the help provided by Medcan dietitian Stefania Palmeri. She walked a client through his daily eating habits, and the encounter went something like this.
“So what do you eat for breakfast?” she said.
“Usually nothing,” he said. “I don’t have time. Instead, I get up, I maybe grab a coffee, and then it’s off to work.”
“What’s the first thing you do eat?” asked Palmeri.
The gentleman told Palmeri about his habit of grabbing a cinnamon bun in the cafeteria on his way to a daily 11 a.m. meeting. Next, Palmeri and the client discussed lunch—which tended to overcompensate for his missed morning meal. He ate a huge lunch from one of the fast-food restaurants in a strip mall near his building. Poutine, burgers, Greek food, noodle bowls—what it was varied depending on the food court’s daily special, but one thing was certain: he ate a lot of it. See the problem? Starving the body of food in the morning drops blood sugar levels and increases cortisol levels, which prompts the body to start breaking down muscle mass for energy. Then eating a big meal at lunch creates something called a “hyperinsulemic response”—a spike in insulin levels that prevents the satiety hormone, ghrelin, from shutting off the appetite, leading you to eat more than you otherwise might.
That brings us to a key principle of healthful eating behaviors: no one makes good food choices when they’re hungry. If you ignore the body’s signals about when to eat and stop eating, when you do eat, you’ll be famished and consume too much. Mindful eating is about more than just eating timing and avoiding becoming too hungry, however. Another key habit is to avoid looking at food as a reward—to realize that what we’re craving, as one mindful eating workbook says, is “the feeling that results from eating, not the food itself.” By slowing down and paying attention to the circumstances that surround eating, as well as the act of eating itself, the techniques of mindful eating can help you get into touch with your relationship with food; to realize when one is hungry, as well as when one is satisfied. As the director of Medcan’s weight management program, Dr. David Macklin, points out, people who eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re satisfied are more likely to lose weight and keep it off. They’re also less likely to become overweight in the first place. The ultimate goal? To enjoy food without obsessing over it. So consider the following techniques, each of which are drawn from mindful eating practices:
- When you notice feelings of hunger coming on, eat a nutritious snack.
- Stop eating when you’re two-thirds full, because it takes twenty minutes for the brain to register the satiety sent from your gut.
- Eat slowly, and chew each bite of food well.
- Eat with others, because it makes the meal more enjoyable and you tend to eat more slowly.
- Try not to do anything else while you’re eating. Mindful eating will not fix every aspect of a poor diet.
Someone who exists on a diet of cheese and ice cream will eventually have to make changes to the kind of food he or she eats. But it’s never a bad thing to pay attention to the circumstances in which you consume your food and that may play a factor in your overeating. Enjoy and savor each bite of food you take.
Get more tips on healthy eating in EAT, MOVE, THINK by Shaun Francis!
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Excerpted from Eat, Move, Think by Shaun Francis. Copyright © 2018 by the author. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.