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What is Mindful Eating?

Eating mindfully, is the art of being present with our meals, and eating with deep awareness of our bodies’ cravings, needs, and satiety levels. When we do not eat mindfully, we may find ourselves shoving meals down quickly while watching TV, multitasking during mealtime, or eating on-the-go. Barriers or hindrances to mindful eating include: thoughts, feelings, and sensations that hinder our capacity for mindfulness. They cause us to divert our attention, weaken our wisdom, and distract us from being fully in the present moment and feeling uncomfortable emotions. The great news is, there are many things we can do to eat more mindful, which will in turn: improve our digestion, emotional response to food, and help us to listen more carefully to our bodies’ cues.

Below are some things that you can put into practice if you struggle with binge eating or overeating. It’s important to keep in mind that these practices should be incorporated as part of your daily journey to have the best results over time. If you slip up, it’s important to not beat yourself up for not achieving the elusive title of “mindful eater.” Part of the journey, is the recognition that it’s all a process that requires positive choices day by day. Celebrating the small victories can go a long way to helping you stay on the path.

1. Daily Mindfulness Meditation Practice.

Finding a meditation practice that works for you and practicing consistently can greatly reduce your need to binge. Why meditation? Studies on binge eaters have shown that meditation and mindfulness exercises as a whole, had a positive effect on bingeing and also may help us get more present with our emotions which are in a lot of cases the root cause of bingeing. A simple five to ten minute meditation is enough to start, and you can increase as you feel more comfortable.

2. Journaling.

Emotions can play a big role in binge eating. In fact, the food is usually a way to stop us from experiencing negative emotions like stress or sadness. When you journal around your feelings in social and solitary situations that cause bingeing, you can discover what your triggers are. Once you know your triggers you can work alone or with a behavioral therapy practitioner to find interventions to stop the cycle of bingeing.

3. Stopping in Between Bites.

One to two times per week try eating a meal and putting your utensil down in between bites. The pause in between bites in which you must put your fork down, causes you to savor your food and have a better handle on your satiety or hunger level. Most of us shove food down our throats quickly and discover minutes in that we are overstuffed. Slowing way down can be maddening at first, but for someone who is used to eating large amounts of food very quickly like most do who binge, it will be a great exercise in re-training you to hear your bodies’ cues that you are full. You can also journal about your experiences.

4. No Eating While Upset.

If you are a binge eater it’s important to start allowing yourself to feel the feelings that come up before a binge. The act of bingeing numbs the emotions and replaces with a temporary feel good from the food, and then bad feelings of shame and guilt come after so it becomes a vicious cycle. It may be extremely difficult at first, but if you can work on turning to journaling, calling a friend, or other activities that allow you to express how you’re feeling, a healthier cycle and way of dealing with her emotions will replace the bingeing habit. Setting a ground rule of not eating while emotionally unbalanced can help you move closer to your goal.

5. Chew Your Food Thoroughly.

In tandem with stopping in between bites, being conscious of chewing your food  thoroughly increases mindful eating, and improves digestion. You may have experienced that when you are busy or rushed, you tend to almost swallow your food whole. Doing this leads us to overeat, digest our food improperly, and find that we are overstuffed at the end of meals. When we slow down, we are able to listen to our bodies’ and hear when we have had enough food.

 

References:

Katterman SN, Kleinman BM, Hood MM, Nackers LM, Corsica JA. Mindfulness
meditation as an intervention for binge eating, emotional eating, and weight
loss: a systematic review. Eat Behav. 2014 Apr;15(2):197-204. doi:
10.1016/j.eatbeh.2014.01.005. Epub 2014 Feb 1. Review. PubMed PMID: 24854804.

Kristeller JL, Wolever RQ. Mindfulness-based eating awareness training for
treating binge eating disorder: the conceptual foundation. Eat Disord. 2011
Jan-Feb;19(1):49-61. doi: 10.1080/10640266.2011.533605. Review. PubMed PMID:
21181579.

Mathes, W. F., Brownley, K. A., Mo, X., & Bulik, C. M. (2009). The Biology of Binge Eating. Appetite, 52(3), 545–553. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2009.03.005

 
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