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How to practice "mindful eating" in five easy steps

By Andrea Stokes on September 01 2017 | Nutrition & Recipes

Meet Andrea Stokes, Registered Dietitian. Andrea is based out of the Definitions clinic in St. John's Newfoundland and provides individual nutrition counselling as well as corporate seminars on a variety of topics related to healthy eating and healthy weight management. Andrea also leads the dietitian component Definitions clinic weight wellness program, a medically supervised intensive program for achieving and maintaining healthy weight. Definitions is part of the Medisys Health Group. 

To book an appointment with Andrea or to book a preventive health assessment in St. John's, contact: info@definitionsonline.com

 

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Whatever your reasons are for improving your diet, it is often challenging to stick to a truly healthy and balanced diet.  Weight loss diets in particular tend to be restrictive and generally do not result in reduced weight in the long term.  In fact, the vast majority of people who intentionally try to lose weight end up regaining that weight, usually in a fairly short time period.   Mindful eating has become a popular concept in the quest for a better approach to health, nutrition, and weight loss. 

What is Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating involves being more aware of the positive and nourishing experiences available through food selection and preparation; acknowledging and respecting food preferences without judgement; and being more in tune with hunger and satiety cues.  It means paying attention to what you eat and how it makes you feel.  It also means being able to choose foods that are both enjoyable and nutritious while developing a healthier and happier relationship to food (something that has become exceedingly difficult in today’s culture). 

Benefits of Mindful Eating

Growing research on mindful eating indicates it may be beneficial for:

  • Making healthier food choices, including decreasing processed food intake
  • Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight
  • Developing healthy relationships with food and improving disordered eating behaviours
  • Improved management of chronic diseases, such as diabetes

 

How to Be a Mindful Eater:

  1. Slow Down
    Give your brain a chance to catch up to your body by eating more slowly.  This will allow you to pay more attention to when you start to feel full and satisfied, rather than scarfing down food well past the point of being full and feeling sluggish and bloated after meals.  Take at least 20-30 minutes to eat your meals whenever possible (set a timer if you need to!). 
  2. Understand Your Hunger Cues
    Are you eating out of hunger, or for other reasons?  Often we eat out of boredom, sadness, stress, or frustration.  True hunger is often marked by a growling and empty-feeling stomach.  Becoming overly hungry can lead to light-headedness, weakness, lethargy, and irritability.  Avoid becoming overly hungry and instead learn to recognize your early signs of hunger (these can differ from person to person).  Pay attention to and make note of the other reasons you may be turning to food.  Understanding your eating behaviours can help to make changing these behaviours more feasible. 
  3. Create a Healthy Eating Routine
    Eat at set times, rather than randomly and mindlessly looking through cupboards for snacks.  Make a point to plate your food and sit down at a table without distractions to eat your meals and snacks.  This helps to avoid making environmental connections to eating at other times and places (like in the car or sitting in front of the TV).  Eat with other people as often as you can – the social interaction provides its own health benefits and helps you to eat more slowly. 
  4. Reflect on Where Your Food Comes From
    Since very few of us grow and harvest our own food, we have become increasingly disconnected from our food supply.  When you consider all of the people, resources, and cultural traditions that go into food, you are better able to make environmentally sustainable choices as well as see more value and importance in the food choices that you make.  Take a moment at each meal to think about and appreciate all the steps involved in getting your food to your plate. 
  5. Make Eating a Single Task Activity
    Distracted eating, such as eating in front of the TV or at your computer, often leads to overeating because we are too busy to pay attention to our body’s satiety signals.  As often as possible, avoid multitasking with food and instead concentrate on enjoying your meal with focused attention. 

Given today’s busy lifestyles, it’s not always possible to be a truly mindful eater.  Sometimes we have to eat on the run, or we don’t have time to sit with others for a meal.  The aim is to be more mindful of what you eat as often as you can.  Incorporate the suggestions above as often as is reasonably possible and reap the benefits of mindfulness in a way that suits your lifestyle. 

For more information on mindful and healthy eating or to book a consultation with Registered Dietitian Andrea Stokes, based in St. John's Newfoundland, please contact Definitions at info@definitionsonline.com

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