…..but today I want to talk about mindful eating and how it might help someone who tends to overeat, binge, or even just get insatiable cravings for sugar, salt, or whatever it is. You’ve probably heard of mindless eating before. Brian Wansink, PhD is basically the expert on the mindless eating concept. I wrote a blog about it back in January of 2011, if you’d like a review. Basically mindless eating is happening to everyone, all throughout the day. We are constantly eating more than we think (and more than we need!), mindlessly, and therefore we now live in a country with a 66% obese/overweight population. I encourage you to read some of Brian’s work, and learn some ways to prevent or reduce mindless eating.
One thing to think about is your plate size. Start serving your dinner on smaller plates, rather than larger ones, and science indicates that you will eat less.
Many dietitians and therapists work with people who have binge eating disorder and use mindful eating strategies to help them become more aware of why they eat, and what they are eating. However, I am fully aware that anyone can benefit from these strategies, as many people may not have documented binge eating disorder, but still find themselves wondering to the kitchen and eating despite not being hungry. And many of us find ourselves getting out of control more often than we’d like. As someone with a history of anorexia (and bulimia, as that’s often the next step when trying to heal from anorexia….) I can appreciate the mindfulness approach.
|Source: Today’s Dietitian Magazine|
This article talks about the concept of mindful eating (I highly recommend reading it!). Let’s look at the cycle from the article (pictured above). These are the questions you might ask yourself as you’re trying to become a more mindful eater and gain a better relationship with food. I will use myself as an example;
During the time in my life when I was trying to overcome an eating disorder I went through a really bad time of binging and purging (my purge was exercise). Seven years ago, these would have been my answers;
2) When did I eat? Typically when no one was around, or whenever I had a spare moment to eat something really fast
3) What did I eat? Very specific foods, “good” foods, never “fad” foods. And, if they were “Bad” foods I typically binged.
4) How did I eat? Fast, very fast, and not mindfully. I even ate fast around others, because I didn’t want them commenting on what I was eating.
5) How much did I eat? It really depended on if I was alone, or not, and what time it was, and what I was eating.
6) Where did I eat? Anywhere but at the table (unless we were out to dinner)
Over the past 7 years I have learned to put a pause between my trigger (emotion to want food) and response (eating the food), which is one of the purposes of this mindful eating exercise. Here are my answers today;
2) Journal your answers if you’d like. This will help you make more sense of your relationship with food. Write in your journal daily or weekly (you can read more tips and activities the article).
3) Remember to stop and savor the texture, smell, and taste of your food. The more you appreciate each and every bite, and really grasp the deliciousness that it is, the more satisfied you will be, and the less likely you are to continue eating beyond your control.
4) If binging isn’t your issue, but (like me sometimes) you often find yourself eating (whether it’s salty or sweet foods, or whatever it is…) despite not being hungry, you can still use these tips. One thing I do when I find myself staring at food in the fridge, is to stop and ask myself; “Do the healthy foods I love sound good to me right now?” If the answer is “No, I want chocolate, or chips”, then I know (most of the time) I’m not really hungry and I’m just acting on a craving, which has been triggered by an emotion (most of the time it’s boredom!). Clearly there are times when I’m not hungry and I really just want to eat some chocolate, and I do….. and that’s ok sometimes!
Again, I’m not an Mindful Eating Expert, but I truly believe in the concept. I encourage anyone who is reading this to check out some of the resources provided by Today’s Dietitian Magazine (below) to learn more and start practicing eating more mindfully (and teach these concepts to your clients, if you work with people who might be struggling with their relationship with food).
I really enjoyed this recent article from the Washington Post, which discussed the “sour side of a sweet tooth”, ie: the sugar crash (acute) and long term health problems (chronic). I thought the tips they provided were helpful; add a protein, fat and/or fiber to your sweet treat and it will reduce the glucose and insulin spike, therefore theoretically reduce the crash (and perhaps reduce the urge to continue eating more sugar!).
|Tofu Mousse topped with blueberries; lots of fiber, and just enough sugar to keep me satisfied (oh, and chocolate of course)|
|Fruit and nut bars (homemade); again lots of fiber and very little added sugar. But, of course enough sugar to satisfy. I eat these very slowly and enjoy every tiny morsel. By the time I’ve finished my “sweet cravings” are typically gone and I can move along.|