Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mindful Eating - Efficiency isn't always so efficient

Figuring out what to eat is all we need to know for good health, right?
Wrong: learning when, and how, we eat has a profound impact on health too.
Efficiency is an attribute that many of us strive for in our daily lives, especially with those things that just don’t seem as important to us. For most tasks, including meal preparation, this is great - efficiency allows us to breeze through the mundane without too much fuss. Using a list to shop for groceries, having a meal plan to know what you’re going to eat throughout the week or knowing how to quickly chop a carrot into even slices is easiest if there is a quick system in place.
efficiency allows us to breeze through the mundane without too much fuss
But when it actually comes to eating, being too efficient can backfire. When we gobble our food, eat while working on the computer or watching TV, snack while we walk or sip while we drive, the mind is distracted from the meal. If the normal pace is “vacuum cleaner,” it’s time to slow down and eat mindfully.  This is something that doesn’t come naturally to many adults; even health professionals can be guilty too!  Taking smaller bites, not eating so fast and making the meals the singular activity (instead of multitasking while eating) can help. It takes plenty of focus to do something differently, but the benefits are many.
If the normal pace is “vacuum cleaner,” it’s time to slow down and eat mindfully

Eating more slowly allows your stomach to get the message that it is full of food – a message that takes 20 minutes or so to deliver. Focusing on each bite as you eat lets you be more satisfied with the meal. Taking the time to enjoy the meal leaves a positive break in your hectic day and leaves you ready to run for your next tasks.  
Take this mini quiz to see if you need to focus more when eating:
·         What did you have to drink yesterday?
·         What was the best thing you ate yesterday?
·         What foods did you eat between meals?
·         Did you hit the bottom of a snack bag without realizing it?

If you’re having trouble putting the bites together, it could be a sign that you aren’t paying enough attention while you’re eating.
Need some strategies to slow down? Give these a try:
•       Put down the fork or spoon between each bite
•       Set a timer and see how long it takes you to eat your lunch or dinner. Are you surprised? Try to make the next meal last for two minutes longer.
•       Take a sip of water in between bites
•       Eat only at the table
•       Turn off distractions (TV, computer, phone)
•       Set the table – this lends to a sense of occasion
•       Eat at regular intervals
•       Stop nibbling throughout the day or going for hours and hours without eating; both are detrimental to your metabolism

It takes time to build new habits. But if you take the energy and focus to be present when you eat, your health (and waistline) can benefit.
Main Message:  the dining room table is not the place for multitasking, and your computer desk, car and couch shouldn’t replace the dining room table. Sit down at the table and focus on the meal. Enjoy the pleasure of a small break, and move on to your next task feeling recharged and refocused.
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Question to the reader: what strategies to you use to be present at the table? 

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