Thinking About Eating

Mindful Eating Enhances the Entire Eating Experience

                I want to talk with you about thinking about what and how you are eat.  Mindful eating is an approach to eating that is based in the Buddhist meditation of Mindfulness.  It has been utilized and achieved success for some who are challenged with obesity or eating disorders.  It is also a wonderful technique for those who, like me, engage in emotional and external eating.  Anxiety often triggers me to eat, even when I am not hunger.  I am also triggered by the sight and smell of food.  Recognizing this about myself aids me in resisting the temptation to overeat and encourages me to engage in some other activity.  I am not one hundred percent effective at this, but I have made tremendous progress and it is evident in my feelings and my figure.

                I realize that it is Thanksgiving week and many of you are not interested in talking about being mindful of what you eat when there is about to be mounds of food set before you.  You are thinking about getting your turkey or ham and who is going to cook what.  You’re probably doing your grocery, pulling out your recipes and creating your plan of action.  Since Thanksgiving is a time when we concentrate so much on food, I think it is the perfect time to begin the process of thinking about eat food. 

                Mindful eating entails thinking about what you eat, where you eat, when you eat, why you eat and how you eat.  It requires that we process every aspect of eating and that we eat with intention and purpose.  Mindful eating has helped me to better appreciate my food, making my food more enjoyable and beneficial.  There are steps to mindful eating that you can check out in the article referred to below.  I take heed to those steps and in this article, I am going to tell you how I do it.  No, I am not an expert and I may not follow these steps with every meal, but I am becoming more proficient.

                I practice Intermittent Fasting (IF), so I rarely eat breakfast and my first meal is generally not before 11 a.m.  I spend a portion of the morning thinking about what I am going to eat.  I think about how I am going to prepare it and what ingredients and cooking method I am going to use.  I envision myself putting it together and the pleasure I am going to experience preparing and eating it.  I rarely eat food that is not prepared at home.

                I place my prepared meal on a small plate.  Dinner plates hold far more food than most of us require.  Salads are usually served in a pasta bowl.  I look at my plate for several minutes.  I take in the colors, shapes, and textures.  I note in my mind whether my plate has a variety of colors on it.  That is a goal for me.  I smell my food, even attempting to identify the spices and herbs used in preparation. 

                I am learning how to eat in a quiet place, free from distractions including television and other electronic devices.  I always give thanks for my food, mindful of those who have nothing to eat and equally mindful of how much food is available to me and how easy it is for me to access.  When I pray over my food, I ask God to bless those who have nothing to eat and to use me to feed them.

                I chew my food slowly, attempting to savor every bite.  Chewing slowly helps to prevent overeating by giving the brain time to realize that you are eating.  Chewing quickly or gulping down food can cause overeating because by the time the brain signals that you are full you have already eaten too much.  I eat until I am no longer hunger.  I do not feel guilty if there is still food on my plate.  I simply save it for a future meal.

                When I finish eating, I think about how the food makes me feel.  Did I enjoy the meal?  Will I prepare this again?  Was it satisfying?  Do I feel energized or sleepy?  I try to listen to my body’s response to the meal.  I drink water afterwards.  I say, “Thank you,” again to God.

                That’s it.  That’s how I practice mindful eating.  It really helps me to eat intentionally and with purpose.  It makes me mindful of the people involved in ensuring that my food is accessible and safe.  It increases my desire to eat more “real” food and fewer processed items.  I believe it increases my body’s ability to utilize food more effectively and efficiently.  You should try it.  Start with one meal and see how it works for you.

Taming the Tongue

Recognizing the Power in Our Mouth

                Though it is small, the human tongue is a powerful muscle.  It plays an extremely important role in our ability to speak and communicate.  Although the thoughts we wish to communicate come from our minds, the articulation of those thoughts come through the mouth, manipulated by the tongue.  The tongue is so powerful in our imagery, that we attribute our speech completely to it as though it operates of its own free will. 

                Although the tongue is powerful and the words it produces can build up or tear down, this article addresses another powerful aspect of the tongue, its ability to taste.  Sight, smell, and taste all contribute to our interaction with food.  However, how food taste is the component that determines if we return to a food previously eaten.  Oftentimes, like with our words, we give our tongue the power to determine which foods we eat and do not eat.  This power affects our ability or level of willingness to make healthy food choices.

                In the United States and other Western countries there is an abundance of items to eat.  We have food on the brain, or is it just eating we love?  There is a plethora of dietary options available; some promoting a nutritional advancement over another, while other choices just make us feel good. We love to eat and for the most part will eat almost anything that is visually promoted through advertising.

                While I was caregiver to my husband, I began to look at my own health choices and how my body was responding as I was getting older.  I observed my sister, who had been a vegan for a few years, lose weight and take on a glow of health like I had never seen.  She seemed to have more energy and she displayed a happy disposition.  So, I took a thirty-day vegan challenge from vegan foodie Tabitha Brown. I began to lose weight and feel better.  I too was more energetic and felt satisfied when I ate, eliminating my need to eat constantly.

                I have since then eaten meat, but my meat intake is extremely limited and often I opt for vegan options.  I practice what I call a “plant centered,” lifestyle.  My eating plan begins with a small plate that is at least fifty percent vegetables.  If meat is included, the portion is small and not the entrée.  Processed foods, which is not food at all, are extremely limited and almost non-existent.  Water is my drink of choice.  I strive to only eat when I am hungry and stop eating the moment my hunger subsides. I sit when I eat and intentionally think about what I am eating.  I read food labels, the fewer the ingredients the better. I google unfamiliar ingredients to understand their dietary contribution or if they are harmful.

                These changes in my eating habits along with intermittent fasting have given me more energy and clarity of mind.  I am also able to sleep soundly through the night. Coming from a family prone to diabetes and heart disease, my determination is to live long and strong and work to break the cycle of lifestyle disease.  Yes, I have lost weight, a wonderful result, but not my primary focus.  My goal is to be healthy enough to completely fulfill the purpose for which I exist and to be a good steward of this body I have been given.

                Yes, I engage in some form of exercise daily.  But no matter how much you exercise, you cannot outrun your food choice.  Food is the fuel your body needs to produce energy for body functions.  There are many people who look fit and fine on the outside but are falling apart at the cellular level due to poor eating choices.

                Just as the words that come out of the mouth and spoken with the tongue are a choice, so is the food that enters our mouth and begin the digestion process with the tongue.  Taming the tongue is essential for good health.