By Stacy Goldberg, MPH, RN, BSN. Stacy is the CEO and founder of Savorfull, which helps companies, organizations and consumers discover and purchase healthy “free-from” snacks. She is also a member of EO Detroit.
The link between what you eat and how your body performs is clearly established. Even your brain function improves with the right vitamins and minerals. In fact, approximately 20 percent of the calories you consume are used by your brain.
Now, experts are connecting how you eat with improved wellness. Apply mindful techniques to your eating habits and you’ll realize a host of health benefits—from easier digestion and less stress to weight management and a greater sense of control. The Center for Mindful Eating asserts that mindful eating, “helps us become aware of thoughts, feelings and physical sensations related to eating, reconnecting us with our innate inner wisdom about hunger and satiety.”
Essentially, mindfulness is characterized by uninterrupted focus on any activity and is often used as a therapeutic technique. Whether you’re in your office, sitting at the dinner table, exercising in the gym or washing dishes, mindfulness plays a key role in self-awareness and improves healthy emotions and decision making.
According to the Center For Mindful Eating, these are the basic principles of mindfulness:
- Mindfulness is deliberately paying attention, non-judgmentally.
- Mindfulness encompasses both internal processes and external environments.
- Mindfulness is being aware of what is present for you mentally, emotionally and physically in each moment.
- With practice, mindfulness cultivates the possibility of freeing yourself of reactive, habitual patterns of thinking, feeling and acting.
- Mindfulness promotes balance, choice, wisdom and acceptance of what is.
Being present while eating
Studies have shown a relationship between mindfulness and eating behavior. When practicing mindfulness, individuals experience an enhanced sense of self-control and are likely to pay closer attention to satiety triggers, those feelings of fullness and satisfaction while eating.
Mindful eating implies an awareness of the senses, body and mind while eating. This allows you to focus on the act of eating: observing taste and texture, recognizing unconscious eating habits, and tuning in to cues of fullness.
Key principles of mindful eating include:
- Allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food preparation and consumption by respecting your own inner wisdom.
- Choosing to eat food that is both pleasing to you and nourishing to your body by using all your senses to explore, savor and taste.
- Acknowledging responses to food (likes, dislikes or ingestion, for example) without judgment.
- Learning to be aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decision to begin eating and to stop eating.
How to incorporate mindful eating into a busy life
As entrepreneurs always on the go—whether moving from meeting to meeting in your office or traveling far from home—eating can easily become a necessary chore. Perhaps you’re accustomed to grabbing a quick bite to eat on your way out the door. Or you find yourself eating late at night once you make it home from the office. Maybe your frequent travel has made you a slave to the hotel bar or the in-room refrigerator.
Here are a few tips for you to become more present with your eating habits:
- Consider taking a walk in nature to blow off steam after a heated meeting or choose a 20-minute power nap to refresh yourself and renew your mind. Finding ways to relieve stress that do not include eating or drinking will improve your ability to eat mindfully.
- Eat slowly, taking note of your food’s many flavors and textures. Chew thoughtfully, reflecting on the food’s journey from a farm to your table.
- While you eat, pay attention to your body’s signals. When you feel full, put your fork down and pause. This mindfulness tip will prevent overeating and potential weight gain.
- Instead of aimlessly reaching into a bag or container, put your food on a plate. Doing so allows you to clearly see what you are putting into your body and encourages mindful eating.
- Eat with utensils when appropriate rather than your hands or fingers. If your office kitchen does not stock plates and dishware, bring your own.
- Disconnect from technology when eating a snack or a meal. Put your phone down, close your laptop and turn off the TV when eating. When you’re distracted by screens and eating on auto-pilot, you may be more inclined to indulge. Use this time to appreciate your food and connect with the people you are sharing a meal with such as your family or your co-workers.
Take a moment before munching
Eating mindfully requires pausing before taking a bite or a sip. This might be before you open the hotel room refrigerator or reach for the nearest candy bar from your office vending machine.
Here are some questions to ask yourself before you begin eating or drinking:
- Am I eating because I am hungry or bored? Stressed? Angry? Depressed? Excited?
- Am I eating to pass the time, rather than reading a book or calling a friend?
- Am I celebrating a victory or success with food or alcohol?
- Am I consoling a disappointment or loss by giving myself permission to eat anything I want?
- Is my stomach growling and blood sugar dropping? Do I feel like my body needs nourishment (stomach hunger), or am I looking for a distraction (head hunger)?
There are several digital applications created to help you reach your mindful eating goals. Here are a few mindful eating apps:
- In The Moment: Mindful Eating
- Mindful Eating Tracker
- Eat, Chew, Rest
- Am I Hungry? Virtual Coach
- Insight Timer
Stacy Goldberg is a nutritionist and the founder of Savorfull. Her company is the industry leader in free-from foods with a mission to provide accessible products, content and guidance that connects clients to a clean-eating based-lifestyle.