How many times have you been watching a movie or television show and been so preoccupied, that you look down and you’re at the bottom of the chip bag or the pint of ice cream? It happens in the blink of an eye, but how does that happen?
When our eating becomes largely automatic and mindless, we are eating from a place of emotional or distracted habits. These habits can lull us into making mindless food choices and overeating. The consequences of overeating and poor food choices can lead to diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. The effects of overeating are not just physical, but also mental, causing depression, loss of self-confidence, loneliness, and frustration. These are not exhaustive lists of consequences, but just a few of the consequences associated with poor eating habits.
Awareness is the first step in creating change in your eating habits. This awareness has the power to transform problematic overeating into more self-regulated eating and the benefits are endless. Benefits of awareness in eating can result in weight loss, and an increase in the positive effects of emotional, physical and cognitive health.
Understand that you are not totally to blame in this situation. Our society has produced cheap, but highly palatable, low quality and highly caloric food choices. Combine this trend with high stress and we have the recipe for disaster.
Our food manufacturers have become highly sophisticated and can produce food, which works on the reward center (dopamine) in our brain by increasing the amount of fat and sugar. This stimulating food, fast food in general can trigger more rapid and mindless eating. Couple this with the modern world of advertising, which shapes our behavior, and it’s not a stretch to understand why obesity is so prevalent in our society.
Awareness through mindful eating helps one to make choices that support their health and well-being. Through mindful eating we experience many aspects of eating, including thoughts, emotions, the social and physical self and general self-awareness and acceptance.
When we become aware of these dimensions of eating, we can take back our control and eat from a place of nourishing the body and mind, rather than eating to suppress or satisfy emotional needs. Eating from a place of emotional need will never fill you up. The underlying causes will still be there, ready to trigger another eating episode.
Incorporating mindfulness to eating will bring a renewed sense of awareness through one’s inner experience and outer experience. The inner experience represents hunger awareness, fullness awareness, taste experience, food-choice experience and awareness of thoughts, emotions and other triggers. The outer experience focuses on food choices and awareness of physical activity.
3 Simple Steps to Mindful Eating
- Learn to choose foods that are healthy and nourishing for the body’s optimum health and well-being. For example: All the colors of the rainbow when choosing fruits and vegetables, foods low in fat and sugar.
- Pay attention to thoughts, feelings, sensations and hunger awareness in the present moment, and why you are choosing to eat that particular food in this particular moment. Pause, take a breath and think about what you are about to eat.
- Begin to move by taking walks or increasing your physical activity. Choose activities that you enjoy or would like to begin. Remember, just begin one step at a time and be gentle with yourself.
Begin your journey slowly and gently, and know the practice is just that, practice. It’s a nourishing practice, which is simple and easy to incorporate into your daily life.
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