An Eating Disorders Therapist shares tips from her latest book on practicing Mindful Eating.
Mindful Eating Roadblocks (Part 1) by Esther Kane, MSW
I don’t know about you, but I can pretty-much guarantee I’ll be in a good mood over the next five months. Why? Because there’s more light! I’m like a little flower who opens up and smiles when the sun shines and the air becomes warmer. I’m guessing most of you feel the same way. Over the past few months, I’ve been busy producing my latest book and audio program, “It’s Not About the Food: A Woman’s Guide to Making Peace With Food and Our Bodies” (www.endyoureatingdisorder.com ) and have been getting out in public and offering workshops and talks about its contents. Delightedly, I’ve been met with keen interest and wonderful and enthusiastic participation. So to start of the spring, I’d like to share with you a ‘taste’ of part of my book/workshop series from “Mindful Eating”…I hope you enjoy it. There are five major roadblocks to mindful eating and I will cover a different one in this next series of articles so stay tuned!
Roadblock #1: DISTRACTED EATING
I’m guessing you know what I’m talking about here. Who among us doesn’t “multitask” on a daily basis; especially while we are eating? I have noticed that in our North American culture, the preparation and consuming of food seems to be little more than an inconvenience in our stressed-out, busy lives. I, myself, have become particularly adept at eating while driving, which not only takes the joy out of a meal, but also is very dangerous. I liken it to talking on a cell phone while driving- a very bad habit.
How many of you eat while also doing the following:
• Watching television?
• Working at your job?
• Having an argument?
• Sitting at the computer?
• Talking on the phone?
You’re not alone! Here are some statistics:
• North American adults spend an average of 1 hour and 12 minutes per day eating, yet they spend between 2 ½-3 hours per day watching television.
• 66% of Americans report regularly eating dinner in front of the television.
Why should you eat mindfully?
You will eat less and get out of the habit of overeating:
Americans have been gaining weight for quite some time. The most recent National Center for Health Statistics report found that 32% of all U.S. adults are obese according to the government’s Body Mass Index (BMI) classification system. By contrast, just 23% of adults were classified as obese in government surveys taken from 1988 through 1994. Government surveys also find that the increase in weight is in part related to an increase in calorie and dietary intake. In short, people are eating more.
• If the mind is focused on more than one task while eating, critical signs that regulate food intake may not be received by the brain. If the brain fails to receive important messages such as the sensation of taste and satisfaction, it may not register the event as “eating”. When this happens, your brain continues to send out hunger signals, increasing your risk of overeating.
• You will drastically improve your digestive health: Recent research has found that when our mind is distracted during a meal, the digestive process may be 30-40% less effective.
For homework, I want you to practise eating without distractions. To help you achieve this, here are my “top 10” strategies for mindful eating:
1. Only eat while sitting.
2. Set a place for yourself at the table with a placemat, cutlery, napkin, and a glass for a beverage.
3. Eat away from your work area- in a lunchroom, restaurant, or outside.
4. Eat with chopsticks- it will automatically slow you down.
5. Take a few deep breaths before you eat to calm and center yourself.
6. Chew each bite at least 30 times before swallowing
7. Give thanks for your meal and appreciate that you have food to eat.
8. If you are eating with others, avoid upsetting conversation over meals and instead, practise eating quietly and mindfully with the other person.
9. Turn off the phone at all mealtimes so you won’t be interrupted.
10. Eat at the same time every day for each of your three meals and make sure it takes you a minimum of 20 minutes to eat a meal.
Esther Kane, MSW, Registered Clinical Counsellor, is the author of the book and audio program, “It’s Not About the Food: A Woman’s Guide To Making Peace with Food and Our Bodies” (www.endyoureatingdisorder.com ) and “Dump That Chump”(www.dumpthatchump.com ), and “What Your Mama Can’t or Won’t Teach You”(www.guidebooktowomanhood.com). Sign up for her free monthly e-zine, Women’s Community Counsellor, to uplift and inspire women at: http://www.estherkane.com .