“Life is a Dance, Mindfulness is Witnessing that Dance”
Among the many conversations shared with my Grandmother, I can still hear her words
“Always Pay Attention”, never would I have guessed she was teaching me the primary
techniques of “Mindfulness”. Mindfulness is derived from a Buddhist meditation concept
of being mindful of one’s surroundings, physically, emotionally and mentally. For years I
have embraced this concept in my Medical Nutrition Therapy practice which has proven
to be quite beneficial. When we apply the concept of mindfulness to eating we are
placing emphasizes or shall I say, “paying attention” to why, when, where, what and
how we eat. There have been several evidence base research studies which has
shown by being mindful of your physical, emotional, and mental feelings connected to
eating has a positive impact on overall health and weight loss efforts. In lieu of this, I
would like to share a few Mindful Eating tips with you of which you may want to
incorporate into your personal daily routines.
- Hunger and Non- Hunger Cues: When you start to feel hungry, take a breath
and ask yourself “Am I really Hungry”? Studies have shown that in many cases
when we feel hungry we may just be thirsty and by drinking water the symptoms
of hunger may go away.
- Slow Down: Try eating at least one meal a day in a slower, more mindful
manner. Savor each food item. I often mention in my classes how I do not like
for my food items to touch on my plate. Primarily because I am mindful of the
true taste of individual foods, and how the taste changes when mixed. I strongly
engage my taste buds with each meal. Food was made to be enjoyed thus we
have the 5 points on the tongue called taste buds, Sweet, Sour, Bitter, Salty, and
the fifth Umami (the savory taste). We were not given taste buds by accident,
they were given to us for a purpose. Slow down, enjoy the true taste of the
wonderful world of “food”.
- Eat without Distractions: Distracted eating increases the tendency of eating
more. Focus on eating, avoid doing other activities while you eat such as
(working, talking on the phone, watching T.V., driving and reading) to name a
- Timing is Everything: As previously mentioned, it takes the brain 20 minutes to
recognize that you are full. Slow down take your time, enjoy your meal. Try
setting a timer for 20 minutes, pace your meal, chances are within the first 10-15
minutes you will start to feel full and perhaps only a third of the meal was eaten.
The feelings of hunger and fullness are controlled by two groups of hormones.
The hormone Ghrelin is one, made in the stomach stimulates hunger when the
stomach is empty, however when the stomach is filled Ghrelin secretion is
decreased and the other group referred to as anti-hunger hormones are activated
such as Leptin and Cholecystokinin (CCK) provides the fullness/stuffed feeling.
This entire physiological process takes a period of 30 minutes from start to finish.
Yes, timing is everything, Slow Down.
- Eat silently for 5 minutes: Try it, pay attention, be mindful of the individual taste
of each bite of food, savor the various flavors, rather it is the taste of a
combination of food items such as chili and beans, or chili and rice, or the taste
of corn bread and buttermilk, or a single bowl of brown rice, it’s the joy of food.
Savor it, enjoy it and when you start to feel full stop.
- Emotional Eating: Ask yourself, “Am I just bored, stressed, tired, anxious,
angry, or sad”. Emotional eating is an issue which results in an excessive intake
of calories leading to weight gain and other health problems. Be mindful of why
you are eating, be careful not to use food to make yourself feel better or to satisfy
your emotional needs, rather “pay attention”, restrict eating to satisfy your bodies
physical cues of true hunger.
Always remember: “Life is a Dance, Mindfulness is Witnessing that Dance”.
If we would only learn to “Pay Attention”