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Posts Tagged ‘mindful eating’

I talk with my clients a lot about “mindful eating” and the key tenant of slowing down and noticing if you are really hungry.  Another part of it all is thinking of meals and food as a gift and treating your eating time & place as a wonderful opportunity for ritual.  We already surround lots of other rituals with food but what about surrounding the food itself in rituals.

A moment of thankfulness before the meal.  A toast.  The perfect dinner music and an open window with a breeze coming in.  A nicely set table with cloth napkins and candles, even if it’s just for you.  A beautiful arrangement on your plate with a balance of texture of color, even if its just yesterdays take-out with some fresh tomatoes added on the plate rim. Want more? Learn to turn your carrot hunks into flowers or heck– just sprinkle real edible flowers ad libitum.

One client shared her gorgeous meal photo with me and agreed that she fills fuller now that she has an eye “full” and is slowing down.

Sharing her colorful camera phone pic with you and hope are inspired– I know I was!

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I think of Winter as a time for self reflection. The weather is colder, the days are shorter and you are eating more root vegetables. This can also be a nice time to get to the “root” of any behaviors you want to modify. Instead of setting overly ambitious New Year’s Resolutions, what about taking the whole winter to check-in with yourself? See where you are growing and blossoming and where you want to prune.  In my private practice I often talk about “Mindful Eating” and I think most people could benefit from slowing down and being mindful, take a minute to ask yourself “am I really hungry?” Another way to evaluate if you are being present with your food/beverages is to answer these questions regarding Emotional Eating. When you are done answering the questions, add your score and see below.  This simple scale can help you recognize if you have tendencies to eat as a reaction from an emotion rather than true hunger.

Emotional Eating Quiz

  1. Do you have a tendency to eat when you are bored, even if you are not physically hungry?
    1. Frequently
    2. Sometimes
    3. Never
  2. Do you eat when with friends or family, or at special celebrations, even though you are not physically hungry?
    1. Frequently
    2. Sometimes
    3. Never
  3. Do you eat when you are sad about something that has occurred in your personal life, even if you are not physically hungry?
    1. Frequently
    2. Sometimes
    3. Never
  4. Do you eat when you are stressed or anxious about an upcoming event or situation, even if you are not physically hungry?
    1. Frequently
    2. Sometimes
    3. Never
  5. Do you tend to have strong cravings for specific foods or food combinations?
    1. Frequently
    2. Sometimes
    3. Never
  6. Do you feel that you spend more time thinking about food than other people do?
    1. Frequently
    2. Sometimes
    3. Never
  7. How often are you ashamed of the quantity of food that you eat?
    1. Frequently
    2. Sometimes
    3. Never
  8. How often do you clean your plate, even after you are full, to either avoid wasting food or to not offend the person who prepared your meal?
    1. Frequently
    2. Sometimes
    3. Never
  9. How often do you eat specific “comfort foods” when you are upset?
    1. Frequently
    2. Sometimes
    3. Never
  10. How often do you find yourself eating, even though you are not physically hungry, in an attempt to “perk up” when your energy lags?
    1. Frequently
    2. Sometimes
    3. Never

Scoring

Frequently=2 points
Sometimes=1 point
Never=0 points

14-20: It is likely that you have a serious problem with emotional eating, and this is likely impacting your ability to eat a moderate and well-balanced diet. It is highly recommended that you follow the recommendations that follow to help cope with the emotional eating habits that you have formed.  Additionally you might want to work with a Dietitian or Therapist to assist you in behavior change.

7-13: You have a tendency toward emotional eating and may find it helpful to read through the recommendations that follow. It is likely that you are sometimes able to exert adequate self-control when it comes to emotional eating, but have a very difficult time doing so during other situations. It is important that you recognize what your triggers are in order to set up a “game plan” for difficult times.

0-6: You do not seem to have a tendency toward emotional eating. You may, however, want to read through the following tips in order to gain a greater understanding of others who struggle with emotional eating.

Tips for Emotional Eaters

The following tips can help you or someone you know deal with emotional eating.

Why are you eating?
The first step to quitting emotional eating is to become aware of why you are eating. Humans feel many different things on any given day, but rarely register these feelings unless they are severe or a drastic change from the norm.

What is missing?
It is important to determine if you are neglecting a part of your life. Spirituality, family, friends/social life, and creative expression are common examples of areas that are important to many people. Although each person is unique, all humans share some common needs.

What areas need more focus?
Many people eat in an attempt to fill a part of their life that was abandoned. Once you figure out what area needs more focus, you can find effective ways to gain more balance to your life and values.

Are you planning activities that do not involve food?
Many people have difficulty separating food and the fun of spending time with loved ones. Planning activities that do not revolve around food takes time and energy, but it is well worth the effort.

Are you prepared?
Preparation is key. Keeping a nutritious snack in your purse, pocket, glove compartment, or desk at work can help to stop you from reaching for the first comforting food that you come across.  This is a big thing we talk about in my private practice.

Whatever your “score” above, know that we humans are incredibly adaptable and we can change. So start a new healthy habit, or keep doing what you are doing!

Take a deep breath with gratitude before you dig in!

adapted from a professional resource on RD411.com

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I just finished reading “Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food” written by MD and Zen teacher Jan Chozen Bays and wanted to share her simple but strong message of slowing down and cultivating gratitude through food.

The book outlines 7 different kinds of hunger, explores our learned habits with food and gives tips on re-learning a way to eat that is “intuitive”; compassionate and focused while also abundant and full of joy. I especially appreciated her point of not confusing hunger for thirst (most of us need to drink more water daily), anxiety (I know I craved chocolate like crazy before every midterm and final), anger, loneliness (and boredom), sadness or being tired.  Reminded me of how my dad always used to say to HALT and not make big decisions when Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired….this perspective is to not make the decision to eat before assessing those feelings as well.

I have included some of her other major tips below (from the book/workshops/website) that resonated with me and you can download all 13 of her tips here as a pdf.

(1) Mindfulness is the most powerful tool for accessing the sacred aspect of eating. Mindfulness is the best seasoning you can add to food. Mindfulness is deliberately paying attention, being fully aware of what is happening both inside yourself, in your body, heart and mind, and also outside, in your environment. Mindfulness is awareness without judgement or criticism.

(3) Check if hunger is actually body hunger. If not, figure out what kind of hunger it is. Try to satisfy that. Try alternatives treats — drinking liquids, smelling food, eating small amounts of food with awareness, calling a friend, reading a book, going outside, a warm bath, giving love.

(4) Eat the foods you want to eat, but eat sitting down, slowly and mindfully.
Try treating yourself as a guest, with a place mat, a folded napkin, some flowers, a candle. This nourishes heart hunger.

(8) Eat to “satisfaction”, not to “full.”

(11) Don’t try to change everything. A small change today can result in a big change in outcome in five or ten years. You might try:
– eating one meal a day a little slower, in silence, with attention in the mouth
– eating the first three bites of any dish or meal in silence, slowly with full attention
– putting the spoon, fork or cup down between bites or sips, even for part of a meal
– asking family / friends to support your new “Zen diet” and eat for ten minutes in silence
– separate eating from reading or TV watching. Read a page, eat mindfully, read a page.
– go on a media diet.
– eat an oriyoki meal – honor ceremonial meals like family meals or Shabbat.
– undertake the discipline of not eating or drinking unless seated.

Other resources for mindful eating are:

The Center for Mindful Eating (geared for health professionals)

Diabetes and Mindful Eating (for patients)

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