Have You Ever Tried Mindful Eating?

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • I recently read a New York Times article that discussed an approach to eating that I simply have to embrace. Like many of you, I typically race through meals. When I was working in the hospital as a full time Physician Assistant I was always squeezing meals in between emergency consultations; as a mom, it was in between my family's many demands; as a more mature freelancer professional, it's in between five ongoing projects. So though I can report exactly what I eat daily (because years of disciplined eating have me always aware of what and how much I am consuming), I confess I often haven't "tasted it." It's more like an inhalation or gastronomic frenzy. And I should know better. Because I am a health professional and because I know that I am probably missing out on satisfaction, an important component of healthy eating, which will probably also help with maintaining my weight.

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    So I took my time plowing through Jeff Gordinier's article on Mindful Eating as Food for Thought. He wrote, "Place a forkful of (divine) food in your mouth....now put the fork down....." He suggests that if the food is really good, or just because you've never eaten this way before, it may be a lot harder than you think. He's right. Chewing, feeling the food texture in your mouth, not talking, not watching TV, really focusing on the food experience can be really, really tough for a fast-paced eater. The idea of mindful eating takes it roots from the Buddhist tradition. Disciples of Buddhism teach that expanding consciousness by paying close attention to each sensation and morsel of food, is a form of meditation with food. And Buddhism is all about meditation. The Google campus and Harvard School of Public Health are among those institutions and organizations looking at this concept of truly experiencing what you are eating. Maybe, just maybe it can help those struggling with obesity and other sorts of eating issues. It's not a diet - it's simply a route to helping you experience and feel what you are eating. The slow pace will certainly allow you to taste the food and to feel full when you are supposed to. You might even push your plate aside with food still on it (Ok, let's not get ahead of ourselves!!)

     

    My husband is a doctor withan unrelenting schedule and constant emergencies, so he has become an elite food inhaler. He beats me hands down when it comes to consuming a meal in record time (and I am fast). He is also always hungry, despite the mounds of roughage I put on his plate. But because he has been on a somewhat restrictive maintenance plan of eating with limited treats, he was able to really "slow down" when I told him he could enjoy a normally forbidden piece of cheesy pizza for lunch one day. He savored and chewed and smelled and relished that piece of pizza, taking about 12 - 15 minutes to eat that one slice. Normally he would have inhaled it in 8-10 bites and 4 minutes. He knew it was a unique and special treat so he embraced the idea of slowing down.  He totally enjoyed it, really savored it. I suggested he do that on a regular basis with other meals. He said maybe.

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    Eating in silence and really slowing the pace of consumption can allow you to feel the food. It can give you the time to ponder where it came from, how it is seasoned, how the temperature of the food feels, how your brain is registering the pleasure from the food. It can also mean eating less, feeling satiation and controlling the "autopilot feeding frenzy" many of us indulge in. For some, this experiment may be way too much. So how about just staying slow for the first five minutes of a few meals a week, and building up to more extended periods of slow eating and contemplation? Or maybe try quiet eating, with the TV off and little chatter and just focus on the food, regardless of the pace of eating. Or maybe agree to chew the first 10 mouthfuls of food at least 20 times. Any or all of these approaches will slow you down. And that's the first step. Think you can do it?
    Let us know.

Published On: February 13, 2012