Healthy Mindful Living - Centered Moment
Creating Personal Power with Mindful Eating
By Lindsay Leimbach
Mindful Eating fosters personal power and happiness in your life and is a large part of Mindful Living. Mindful Living is having awareness of the present moment during your day to day activities. Mindful Eating is having awareness concerning food and eating, with a focus on enjoying each bite. Personal power arises through the awareness of the relationship you have with eating behaviors and food choices. In today’s hustle and bustle, we are often inclined to eat on the run while multi-tasking. TV dinners, fast food chains, power bars, and super-sizing are reinforced in our media and society. We frequently eat in a hypnotic state; we don’t remember what we ate or how much we ate. Mindful Eating is a skill that can awaken us to the pleasure of eating and the joy of the present moment. Eating mindfully can improve eating behaviors, enable weight control, prevent chronic disease, and foster a healthy relationship between food and ourselves.
Mindful Living is never denying yourself, telling yourself you can’t, or restricting your thinking. It is an awareness of your external and internal motivations, without judgement. Likewise, Mindful Eating is having awareness of your external and internal motivations without judgment in relation to food. Awareness leads to insight, knowledge, and positive choices – and making those choices is the exercise of personal power over food.
When we place restrictions and judgments on ourselves and our food by saying “I can’t eat ...” we are reinforcing negative thinking and giving food all the power. What the mind thinks about, in a positive or negative way, the mind will be attracted to. Example, if you tell yourself “I cannot eat any bread”, as soon as you walk up to the table, you will focus on all the bread items you cannot eat. You have convinced yourself that a certain item is “dangerous”, and, therefore, the brain will point out that item every time you come across it. This is how the brain is wired to keep us safe.
Instead of thinking of food items as “dangerous”, realize you can eat any food you want (provided you are not allergic). You’re simply choosing to limit the intake of food items that do not promote your well-being – you are exercising choices, rather than restrictions. Mindful Eating is shifting your focus from restrictions, dieting, and weight to personal power that promotes your well-being. It is a shift of thinking from “I can’t” to “I feel better when I eat...” or “this food works better for me so I choose...”
To make the shift from controlling your thoughts from a “warning Will Robison “Danger, Danger”” about food to “I got this under control and feel great about it” is mindful awareness. The crucial step is knowledge. How does your body react to different foods? Do some cause weight gain? Do others cause bloating or tiredness? Knowing your personal relationship with foods adds to the knowledge that allows you to make positive informed choice without emotion. If you knew a friend treated you well, you would invite him or her into your home. If you knew someone was assaultive and rude you would not invite that person. The more knowledge you have about how your body reacts to food, the more inclined you will be to choose foods that promote health and well-being. You will have more personal power to walk away from foods that are assaultive or harmful. Awareness opens the door to knowledge, and knowledge leads you to make a better factual decision. On the occasions that you want to have a food that might not treat your body so well, then do so. But make an informed choice to use moderation, which will also help eliminate those guilty feelings you might normally associate with eating those foods. Realize that the consequences are just the consequences, not a result of failure but a choice.
How does one eat mindfully? Be awake and aware while eating. Choose when you will eat. Choose where you will eat. Choose what you will eat. Choose how much you will eat. You have the personal power over food; food does not have the power over you.
Here are 6 steps to Mindful Eating:
Evaluate your hunger – Are you really hungry? Are you eating as a social response? Is it a habitual time and place to eat? Be aware why you have chosen to eat. Rate how hungry are you from 1 to 10.
Asses your food- Stop, pause, and really appreciate your food. How does it look? How does it smell? How much have your served yourself? Have you served the food in a mindful way (e.g. placing a portion in a bowl or on a plate, instead of eating from the box or bag)?
Taste your food – Really taste it. Eat slowly and savor the food and textures in every bite. Do not rush. If you are going to eat, choose to relish your food.
Investigate your hunger – check in with yourself while eating. Are you still hungry? Is it time to stop because you are full, or because times up, the waiter took your plate, or the food is finished? Make a conscious decision about when you are finished. Remember you will feel fuller faster if you eat slowly.
Notice how you feel – Be aware of how you feel physically and emotionally while eating. Are you calm and relaxed or are you rushing, lost in thought, or lost in the TV? You will eat more when you are eating on automatic pilot and you will not even remember how the food tasted. Eating in a trance like state is an invitation to over eat. Remember to check in with yourself 30 or 60 minutes after eating. Has your meal given you energy or do you need a nap?
Gratitude – Have gratitude for the opportunity to eat. Be grateful to all the people, plants, and animals that played a part in providing you with food. Seeing the bigger picture will connect you to others and help you establish a positive sense of well-being. Sharing your gratitude with others establishes a positive connection in relationships. It also positively reinforces Mindful Eating in others.