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Think Before You Eat

By Lavender July 1, 2009

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Have you ever heard the phrase “mindful eating”?

I find it amazing how many people completely disregard everything their minds and bodies are informing them regarding nutrition.

I can recount numerous instances where friends and relatives are telling themselves to quit eating at the exact same time they are stuffing their faces with more French fries. I also can recall several instances when these same people have felt horrible after eating something they later decided they shouldn’t have. I think we all can remember specific situations where we have eaten too much, or indulged in something we maybe shouldn’t have.

In other words, we are horrible at mindful eating. In my personal opinion, this is one of the reasons America is gaining weight by the minute. We have little sense of our bodies’ nutritional needs without this strong mind-body connection, and it allows our minds to play tricks on us in relation to food intake.

We all have eaten without hunger, and we all have drunk without thirst, but the real question is: why? I do not have the answer—this question lies in a somewhat unfamiliar area of expertise. But I do have some comments and suggestions that may help you get on track to the strong mind-body-food connection required for mindful eating.
Be One With Your Food

I once participated in a mindful eating session as part of a nutrition course. We literally spent one full hour with a single raisin. We only were able to eat it at the end of the hour. The rest of the time was spent—don’t laugh—looking at, smelling, listening to, feeling, and tasting (holding in mouth) the raisin. This was an eye-opening experience. I never had been so in tune with my food. All this time was spent developing a mind-body-food connection in relation to whether I really wanted to eat the raisin and/or needed to eat it. I would recommend doing something similar at least once a week. Do not take it to this extreme (I know we are all time-crunched). Rather, spend a full one to two hours with a full meal or snack, contemplating each bite before deciding whether you really want and/or need it.

Your Mind Is Yours

Unfortunately, food choices often are influenced by friends, relatives, and our environment. These are all external factors, when what we really should be listening to are internal factors such as our mind and body. Who cares if your friends are having a burger and fries? If your mind and body are telling you to get the salad, do so. If your friends and family think less of you for taking some initiative for your health (or if you get the salad because you would enjoy it more), that is their problem, not yours. The key point to take away from this: Make food decisions based on you, not others (but, of course, you must listen to me!).

Think Ahead

If I eat this brownie now, how will I feel 10 minutes after? Have you ever asked yourself a question like this before?

I gradually have learned how I will feel after eating certain foods. How I anticipate feeling in the future ultimately goes into my decision about whether I want to eat a food now.

I have learned that the instantaneous gratification from eating sweets is lost rather quickly following consumption. In other words, when I really think about it, I do not get much satisfaction from eating sweets most of the time, especially when I am not hungry (there are exceptions of course).

Before eating a particular food, think about how you feel now. Think about how you will feel after eating that food. Think about how you will feel after eating an alternative food. Analyze your food decisions in full (i.e., physically, mentally, emotionally, etc.), and then make your food choices.

Most of us are great at analyzing a movie or paper. We also are great at doing the necessary research before giving a presentation or writing an article. In stark contrast, most of us are terrible when it comes to performing this same analysis of our food decisions.

Well, what I am proposing is that everyone at least give it a try. Analyze the heck out of your food choices in relation to how your mind and body feel. If nothing else, we all will get a better sense of what our mind-body-food connection can do for our health.

I promise you, it will take practice, patience, and diligence. However, I also can promise you that your mind, body, and future self will thank you if you learn to use this technique.

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