By: Dr. Galina Mayer
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We eat every day, a few times a day, day in and day out, and mostly we eat unconsciously, being it at work or at home (or even at the restaurant), busy thinking our thoughts, reading or checking our phone messages while eating, just like we are driving unconsciously and end up at home or at the office when we planned to go somewhere else! Most of the time we are on automatic pilot, and often eat when we are not hungry and drink when we are not thirsty. This is a sure recipe for gaining weight.
The food topic is so vast and so fascinating, but since we are talking about mindfulness, I would like to bring your attention to the one mindfulness practice that will increase your chances for good health and tremendously improve your weight management. I am talking about remembering to always ask ourselves between the meals or during/at the end of a meal: AM I HUNGRY? And/Or, AM I FULL?
I believe (and I am standing on the shoulders of giants) that the reason why we have so many overweight and obese unhealthy people in North America is that SAD or Standard American diet is so poor in nutrients that our body requires, that it craves more and more food even though we already consumed too many calories. Dr. Joel Fuhrman calls it ‘toxic hunger’, the hunger you feel when you stop eating for a few hours, and the body stops digesting food – you may feel shaky, weak, light-headed and even mentally confused. Overall you feel ill, and you feel better when you eat food again. Only by eating a high-quality diet that properly meets the body’s needs in all macro- and micro-nutrients, we can rid ourselves of this sensation of toxic hunger or food cravings, and we can get connected again with our instinctual hunger that is felt in the throat, associated with salivation. When you are really hungry food tastes better and we don’t over-eat.
However, even if you clean up your diet completely, and eat only healthy foods, you can still over-eat if you don’t activate your mindfulness mechanism. So, ask yourself: “AM I HUNGRY? Or AM I FULL?” You maybe simply thirsty. Pause, give yourself some time for the message from the stomach to reach the brain. Ask yourself again, AM I HUNGRY/ FULL? If the answer is Not hungry, stop! No more food, no second helping – until next time. It is that simple. If you practice this mindfulness tactic in between meals, you will give your body a needed break to free large amount of energy required for digestion. Don’t be afraid of hunger, hunger is your friend.
When you do bring your attention to the present moment, you realise that you do have control over what you eat and how much of that you eat NOW. And that is all we have – NOW! The present moment! It could be different yesterday and it may be different tomorrow, but NOW we can exercise this control!
Now, practise this mindfulness practice again and again for as long as YOU need until it becomes a habit.
“Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.” ~ Anton Chekhov
Some of the other practices for mindful eating (from “Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life” by Lilian Cheung):
-Honour your food, it is not coming from a vending machine
-Engage all your senses, the taste, the sight, the aroma, the texture, the sound
-Be mindful of portion sizes, do not take too much, start with a modest amount, get a dinner plate that is no larger than 9 inches across
-Chew your food well, it helps with digestion and the taste; once we swallow it we no longer taste it
-Eat slowly – it allows us to enjoy the food, to be able to taste it better, and also we eat less as a result.
-Eat a plant-based diet.