Weighty Matters

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Mindful Eating

on March 5, 2012

Yesterday a friend of mine posted the link to an article about mindful eating.  The article and the idea really struck a chord with me.  For most of my life I’ve eaten mindlessly and compulsively.  I grabbed things and stuffed them into my mouth without the sparest thought as to whether I was hungry.  I’m a picker, a grazer, a gorger.  As a compulsive overeater, I would eat and eat and eat to the point where I’m surprised that my stomach never burst.  The only thing I never did was eat to the point where I threw up.

Those days are over.  At least they are supposed to be.  However, I have come to understand, that I could still repeat the mindless behavior, just with vastly smaller amounts of food.   Now, post-surgery, it is also all too easy for me to fill my smaller stomach up very quickly.  Does anyone recall that gross scene in a Monty Python movie where the very heavy man eats and eats and eats and repeatedly vomits?  I don’t want to be that person, even on a much smaller scale.

I am retraining myself and am already successfully limiting myself to smaller portions.  I’m also doing much better about separating my daily nutrition/food requirements into small meals spaced about three hours apart.  These are the guidelines that I’ve been given and when I follow them they work great.  I’m able to consume what I need without overtaxing my stomach.

The problem is that I’m only mindful to a point.  I measure out my portions, sit down, and then don’t pay attention to the mechanics of eating.  The television is usually on if I’m home, or I scan the Internet while eating at work.  I lose focus and don’t stay aware of what my body communicates to me in the course of a meal.  I also still occasionally lapse into grabbing something compulsively just because it’s there.  Granted, I don’t take a lot, but the behavior itself is potentially damaging.

My goal for this week is to work on mindful eating.  I’ll check in with my body’s hunger level.  This is a little challenging because, without the production of the hunger hormone, I don’t always feel hungry, but I still need to eat because I require the nutrients.

I will pay attention not only to the portions I put on my plate for a meal, but I will also focus on every spoonful or forkful.  First I’ll remember to do half a forkful or spoonful at a time and savor the aroma, texture and flavor of the food.  I will put down my utensil in between bites and give myself time to chew and swallow.  I will not just mindlessly shovel in food while I watch television or engage in some other distraction.

I will also continue to log everything I eat in my food diary so that I accurately track the nutrition.  I must give my body what I need.

Like all of the changes in my life, this is a process.  I might not be perfect right away — imagine that!  🙂  I’m shooting for steady, successful progress.

There is a lot of info about mindful eating out there on the Internet.  I found the website for The Center for Mindful Eating.  (www.tcme.org)  Here’s a little bit of the Center’s explanation.

Mindful eating has the powerful potential to  transform people’s relationship to food and eating, to improve overall health,  body image, relationships and self-esteem. Mindful eating involves many components  such as:

  •  learning to make choices  in beginning or ending a meal based on awareness of hunger and satiety cues;
  • learning to identify  personal triggers for mindless eating, such as emotions, social pressures, or certain  foods;
  • valuing quality over quantity of what you’re eating;
  • appreciating the  sensual, as well as the nourishing, capacity of food;
  • feeling deep gratitude  that may come from appreciating and experiencing food

Transforming my relationship to food and eating.  That’s a powerful idea.  I think I’m on my way.

11 responses to “Mindful Eating

  1. londonmabel says:

    I tried mindful eating once (I mean, for a couple days). Oh Lord I hated it. lol Sitting in bed in the morning with my lovely bagel and tea and a good book was my special time, and in the end I chose that Special Happy Feeling over the Mindful. 😉 But everyone’s different, so I hope it works for you.

    The things I retained were eating slower (so that the “I’m Full” signal has time to reach my brain), and making myself stop when I feel full. I usually am aware of the Comfortably Full point, I just don’t always ACT on that. !!

  2. Mary Stella says:

    Reporting back after dinner. No, I didn’t turn off the television, but I cleared an adequate space for my soup bowl and plate. I really took my time. I studied the soup and noted the rich color of the broth, contrasted with the colorful chunks of carrot and the pearly barley. I took time to sip and savor the taste. I had half of an English Muffin on the side with some Smart Balance spread. I noted the texture and crunch. It took me forever to consume 3/4 of a cup of soup and the half muffin but it was definitely an enjoyable experience with all of the flavors. I was absolutely in tune with my stomach and knew that I didn’t want any more than what I had.

    They’re onto something with this mindful eating!

    • lunarmom says:

      This is outstandingly cool! I’m reading a book right now that just touched on a similar topic:
      eating standing up.
      If we ONLY eat when we are seated we remove a huge amount of “doesn’t count” calories and those UNPLANNED snacks I was mentioning before.

      Your dinner sounds lovely.
      (I am totally going to get out my chopsticks.)

  3. susan lindley says:

    Yes I love Monty python! I remember the waiter saying after dinner mint sir? They are wafer thin! And he jumps in the plants! I don’t always practice this but, I do use smaller plates, maybe even ones that have color/design on them so even the plainest food looks pretty. Mind game? Yeah. Using smaller forks/spoons is one I don’t do,but I wonder if hors d’ouvres utensils would work.
    Thanks for the tips on eating habits. Mindless eating is a bad habit of mind. Or I will wait until my stomach roars louder than the tv and then eat too much. Sometimes I think if I put my meals together in a.m. and stick to the proper portions then I do better

  4. Mary Stella says:

    Thanks for your comments, everyone. Great suggestions and insights. I think that most of the world probably doesn’t practice mindful eating. Now that I know about it, and also know that I need to do this for my health, I will be much more aware. I’ve done pretty good today so far. It’s a process.

    Had to laugh about the chopsticks suggestion. You’d laugh too if you saw how inept I am when I try to use them at a restaurant. 🙂

    I think tonight I’ll try to take the mindfulness a step further and set a nice place for myself instead of just shoving stuff out of my way. (I keep my laptop on the dining table so that I can look out of the window at the water for inspiration when writing. My office doesn’t have a nice view.) I don’t know if I’ll be able to convince myself to turn off the television. I’ll try. I’ll really try!

  5. I’m feeling really hypocritical to comment since I am so guilty of this. Lunchtime & snacktime is the worst. I lounge on the sofa and read and eat. Dinner I can manage because we usually eat as a family and breakfast is always the same, but lunch and snack . . . *sigh*

    However, what would happen if you set a place at the table, with candles and some music for dinner? Or out on the porch and appreciate the view?

  6. inkgrrl says:

    It’s hard to stay awake, especially when you’re in the midst of a major shift anyway. Don’t beat yourself up about any of it – you are doing great!

    One of the things I’ll do to stay mindful of what I’m eating, when I remember to do it, is to use chopsticks for any solids. Nothing like chasing a niblet of yummy around a plate or bowl to make me focus on what I’m eating and forget about everything else for a moment 😉 YMMV, of course.


  7. robenagrant says:

    This sounds like a good plan. I have recently started to think of myself in terms of cells and that each cell has a job and wants to do it perfectly. When I eat, I try to make note of what I’m eating and how it will affect my cells and what energy that food will supply. By being more aware of if I’m eating calcium rich food, or fatty food, or sugary food, or worse, sugar free doped up food, and how my cells will register that, I can then stay on track with eating foods that are good and nutrious.
    Me and my cells. We’ve become friends. : )

  8. Judie says:

    What a wonderful goal. I am not a mindful eater and it sounds like a good trait to acquire.

  9. You are an inspiration Mary Stella. I would suggest trying to turn off the TV or computer while eating and maybe find a spot outside to enjoy your lunch? Also make sure your plate is nicely arranged so the food looks pretty and stop to admire it. Maybe even take a picture? It is hard to break habits of a lifetime. I think your blog is a great idea!

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