By Courtney ButterfieldBefore eating your next bite, ask yourself “why am I eating this?” We all eat for various reasons, but ultimately we eat for two purposes. One, we are physically hungry. Or two, we are emotionally hungry.Physical vs. Emotional HungerPhysical hunger is when our bodies NEED fuel. Just like gas in a car, we can be empty. Our stomach growls, we feel lightheaded, irritable, shaky, tired, etc. We need food during these times to feel nourished. These are the times we (hopefully) choose foods that give us energy -fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, etc. Remember the food pyramid?Emotional hunger is when we feel neutral or full, yet choose to eat for an emotional purpose. We eat out of habit in front of the television at night after dinner. We go to an Indians game with dollar dog night and bet our friend we can eat more than them. Your grandma insists you try her pie after you just ate an entire plate of dinner…or you may eat because you are bored, stressed, or simply out of habit. Your body doesn’t ‘need’ food at these times, but we choose to eat anyway out of entertainment or stress.Emotional hunger is usually paired with a mindless activity. Watching TV, playing cards, talking with friends, writing an email, checking Facebook, etc. During emotional eating, we do not stop and ‘check in’ with our bodies to see if we are full. As a result, we overeat or eat faster than we should.
So what is mindful eating/mindfulness?Mindfulness is a technique I teach my clients. The purpose is to help you slow down, feel better, and lose weight. Think of it as coming up for air as you are swimming. It is ‘checking in’ on your feelings and stomach as you are eating.
Fundamentally, mindful eating involves:
- Eating slowly and without distraction.
- Listening to physical hunger cues and eating only until you’re full.
- Distinguishing between actual hunger and non-hunger triggers for eating.
- Engaging your senses by noticing colors, smells, sounds, textures and tastes.
- Learning to cope with guilt and anxiety about food.
- Eating to maintain overall health and well-being.
- Noticing the effects food has on your feelings and figure.
- Appreciating your food.
These things allow you to replace automatic thoughts and reactions with more conscious, healthier responses
How to start today1. Before eating take some deep breaths, ask yourself “how hungry am I right now?” and “why am I eating this?”2. If you are truly not hungry, in what ways can you comfort yourself without food? Maybe you need a bath, hot tea, music, a workout, a hug, or you need to vent to a close friend/family to feel better. Find a healthy coping mechanism besides food.3. Choose one meal a day and eat for 20 minutes. Practice the habit of slowing down.