Mindful Eating…

Several years ago, before Cindy and I relocated to Vero Beach FL, we conducted a series of Weight Management workshops in conjunction with the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. The workshops were eight weeks long and the participants received acupuncture and psychological counseling as well as training in Qigong, walking therapy, Chinese dietary therapy, cooking classes and classes in mindful eating. At the end of one of the workshops one of our participants had this to say.

“When I faced my own obesity several years ago, I knew I had to do something that would really look at the prime cause of my weight problem. Instead of turning to the old diet answers (“the light is better here”), I asked myself HOW I was eating my food. And I was horrified at my answers to this question.

I considered food as a throwaway commodity, something to get through to get on with the next thing in life. I gulped, shoveled and barely chewed food. I overate at every meal and I had no thoughts about the origins, effort or sacrifice that went into each bite.

For me, the results of this workshop were nothing short of amazing. I began to slow down as I ate, genuinely appreciating my food. I had a new respect for food, its origins and the efforts behind its production. I began to tune in to my own body and my own hunger and to learn to stop eating when my hunger was satisfied (instead of using the empty plate as a signal to stop eating or worse, get second helpings). Slowly, I began to recapture control over my eating and make choices about when to stop.

All of this had a profound effect on my weight. Slowly, two to four pounds a week disappeared. It was as if my body was saying to me, “You finally got it right.” And through it all, it hadn’t been so much that I changed WHAT I was eating it was a change in HOW I was eating. “

 If we disconnect mind from stomach, the mind doesn’t receive signals of repletion. Normally, as the sensation of taste, smell and food texture reach the brain, they contribute to our feeling of satiation. But, when the mind is disconnected and disenfranchised, it’s difficult to feel satiated.

There are two distinct types of overeaters: The ‘Gourmet’ and the ‘Let’s get on with it’ eaters. We need to find a healthy balance between the two.

The ‘Gourmets’ need to learn that they cannot have three, five-course-gala meals every day and the ‘Let’s get on with it’ eaters need to add more festiveness and mindfulness to meals.

10 Tips for Mindful Eating

At home, eat only at a designated place, which supposedly is your dining table. Whenever you eat, sit down. Standing, walking or driving while eating fosters the habit of mindless eating.

  1. Eat at scheduled times as often as possible, people tend to sacrifice their scheduled eating time for unscheduled activities.
  2. When you eat, let that be the only activity you do. This obviously precludes multitasking such as writing checks, reading, watching TV or talking on the phone while eating.
  3. Have rituals around your meals, such as beginning and ending meals with thanks or a moment of meditation. Meals are family-time, talking about the day’s events is a good way to reaffirm you connectedness.
  4. Mind the presentation, a little garnish goes a long way to help appreciation.
  5. Attend to the quality of your food, not the quantity.
  6. Eat slowly and chew the food at least 30 times per mouthful, learn to savor.
  7. Take the next bite only after you’ve swallowed the food that was already in your mouth.
  8. Until you develop a strong mind-stomach connection, eat with full awareness and concentration, which is, mentally registering the whole process from picking the food up, putting it into your mouth, chewing it and swallowing it down.
  9. In order to develop proper control over eating, mindfulness about eating or any other behavior, you have to be totally non-judgmental. You can’t criticize, chastise and dislike yourself and still be able to observe yourself accurately. When negative emotions or any type of emotional excitement gets hold of a person, his or her faculty of self-observation is significantly compromised.

Additionally, we know from our studies of Traditional Chinese Medicine that the mind and body are connected in such  way that any mental emotional state affects the body and that  always includes the digestive system.

Bon Apatite,

Robert & Cindy Kienitz

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