Getting the scoop on mindful eating
By Victoria Shanta Retelny, RDN
Mindful eating may be called New Age, but the practice of being present with our food has been around for centuries. In today’s fast-paced, on-the-go world we often multitask, eating in the car, in front of the TV or at our desks. Eating with awareness and purpose can allow people to enjoy food more and promote good health. “Mindful eating is balancing how to eat with what to eat,” says Susan Albers, PsyD, author of Eating Mindfully. “Mindful eating gives you a healthy alternative to fad dieting. It allows you to tune in to the taste (of food) and your body at the same time.”
Eating mindfully builds a healthier relationship with what you are choosing to eat at that moment and helps lose the guilt associated with food. It’s easy to eat on autopilot, but when you develop skills to eat more mindfully, it can be an effective weight-management tool by decreasing cravings and binge eating.
Albers recommends these simple tactics to become a mindful eater:
- Break the automatic hand-to-mouth flow pattern by eating with your nondominant hand (so if you are a lefty, go righty; righties, go lefty). Research indicates that this can reduce how much you eat by 30 percent.
- Sit down when eating. It sounds easy, but start noticing how often you eat standing in front of the cupboard, over the sink or counter.
- Don’t multitask while you eat. Turn off the TV, radio and computer and just eat.
- Eat off a plate, and use a fork or spoon. In our fast-paced world, eating with utensils can feel like a luxury.
- Be prepared. Always leave the house with a portable snack like nuts, fruit or string cheese.
- Think location, location, location. Make healthier foods convenient. Put fruit and veggies front and center in the fridge, not hidden in the crisper drawer.
The healthcare community is embracing mindful eating as a legitimate therapy for preventing diseases like cancer, obesity and heart disease.
Stephen Devries, MD, preventive cardiologist and director of the nonprofit Gaples Institute for Integrative Cardiology in Deerfield, is on a mission to educate healthcare practitioners about the role that nutrition plays in health. Mindful eating is one of his focal points.
“[It] enables people to appreciate the many dimensions of what nourishes us—both literally and spiritually,” Devries explains. “It encourages us to tune in to our bodies and seek out the quality food and experiences we need to maintain wellness.
“Mindful eating also helps us cultivate a sense of gratitude for the pleasure of natural whole food, as well as wonder for the good health it provides,” Devries says.