Mindful Eating vs. Dieting: Part four

Learn about the fourth principle of mindful eating and how it can be used to improve your health.

Mindful eating is about paying attention to your senses to relieve stress and find pleasure in the foods we choose to eat. In the previous three articles, techniques of mindfulness were discussed such as slowing down when eating and being mindful of how your senses are stimulated, thinking about what is the “right amount” and what is your energy equation. This article provides techniques to keep mindful when those unhealthy eating habits or triggers tempt us.

Dr. Jan Chozen Bays book, “Mindful Eating – A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food,” provides a couple of mindful practices one can use when tempted to indulge. The first practice she provides is Mindful Substitution. In order to find balance, you need to understand your triggers and be prepared for those waves of temptations. Use Mindfulness Breathing or Thought Surfing to mindfully get through those temptations and cravings and if those don’t help, having a healthy substitution handy can help avoid those temptations. Mindful Breathing is the act of taking time to just slow down and focus on your breath to self-regulate and Thought Surfing is an imagination practice where you imagine the thought and the feelings you would have if riding a wave. There is a crest (or peak) and fall, a beginning and an ending to it.

When you feel that you need a substitute, take your time preparing it and serve it to yourself on a nice plate to help eating it mindfully. When you substitute, remember to assess the seven sources of hunger (nose, eye, mouth, stomach, heart, cellular, and mind) before you begin and assess the level of satisfaction in your body and heart a couple times as you are eating.

Some mindful substitutions mentioned were:

  • Chew gum instead of snack or when craving something chewy
  • Drink water or hot tea instead of soda/pop
  • Eat low-calorie yogurt instead of dessert
  • Eat something sour to curb sweet craving like pickles, sauerkraut, olives
  • Eat a lemon drop or hard candy when craving sweets

Mindfulness is about slowing down and staying in the present moment and accepting all that your body senses nonjudgmentally to maintain balance. Most of the time overeating happens unconsciously or when feeling stressed. Mindfulness is a practice and like all practices, it takes discipline and the desire from within to make the change. Michigan State University Extension offers classes in Mindfulness called Stress Less with Mindfulness. Peruse the website to locate a series of Stress Less with Mindfulness series or call your county Extension office.  

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