What is Mindful Eating anyways?

"Mindful eating is the practice of cultivating an open-minded awareness of how the food we choose to eat affects one's body, feelings, mind, and all that is around us. When we eat with this understanding and insight, gratitude and compassion will arise within us." 

The paragraph above is a partial quote by DR. LILIAN CHEUNG but her whole definition is quite insightful and I encourage you to read it here.

I've been doing lots of research into Mindful Eating over the past week. It's actually a little overwhelming. Everything I have read are things that absolutely make sense. They are things that I inherently know, but have chosen to ignore or somehow forgotten as my life has increasing become more full. This is no longer acceptable to me.  

I want to make it clear that this is not a diet. I am not doing this challenge to loose weight. I am doing this challenge to help improve my current relationship with food

I also think it's important to mention that I will be practicing my version of Mindful Eating. That I'll be using the ideas and rules that best fit into my current lifestyle. So this blog post is about just that - making Mindful Eating accessible & realistic for working women with young children.

Below I've summarized what I'll be practicing this month for my Mindful Eating Challenge. This challenge won't end here though, because mindful eating goes so much deeper than these simple steps. As the African proverb goes, "If you wish to move mountains tomorrow, you must start by lifting stones today."

Taking small steps towards your big goals

Realistic Tips on the Path to Mindful Eating

1. Be prepared with healthy snacks
2. Tune into sensations & thoughts around food choices
3. Only eat when hungry or at schedule meal times
4. Eat a more plant-based diet
5. Put the cutlery down while fully chewing eat bite
6. No multi-tasking while eating

November can be a busy month as we enter into the holiday season. And for someone who loves food (especially snack foods,) it can be extra challenging with all the holidays parties, cookie exchanges and seasonal treats, not to mention that we'll be spending more time indoors as day light hours decrease.

How to feel satisfied with a packed schedule or at social events?
Be prepared with healthy snacks.  
Choose to bring healthy snack options to pot-lucks and parties or to keep with you when you'll be away from home for long periods.

Healthy Snacks in a Jar

Boredom is one of my top triggers to "grab a snack." I also generally default to grabbing something from the cupboard as soon as I get home or walk into the kitchen. This type of eating is a habit and not a good one.

How to combat boredom eating?
Tune into sensations and thoughts around food choices.
Why do I want to eat this right now? How will it make me feel? Will a glass of water do the trick? Or maybe I need a different distraction?

How to avoid emotional eating

I really dislike wasting food - but my kids have no problem with it. I often find myself finishing their cereal, yogurt, toast or whatever is left on their plates. This has got to be the biggest example of mindless eating. 

My goal for changing this habit?
Only eat when hungry or at scheduled meals. 
I can also save the larger portions of their leftovers or be okay with throwing some bits away.

Scheduled Meals

Dinner is often a struggle cooking for a Scottish husband who loves meat & potatoes and my young sons who only want pasta & cucumbers. Because I don't have time to cook two different meals, I always just eat what they want.

How do I turn dinner food into something more mindful?
Eat a more plant based diet. 
This means we'll be trying more plant-based meat alternatives, having Meatless Mondays and myself eating more salad while my men eat their favourites. It's important to recognize that every person in our household has different dietary needs, and I shouldn't feel shame for wanting to fill my plate with healthier options while they eat what they need to feel satisfied & energized.

Plant Based Foods for Mindful Eating

Dinner time is anything but calm sitting between my young sons who'd rather be playing than eating. This means I'm shoveling food into my mouth as I'm chasing them around the kitchen with a fork full of food. 

My tip for making dinner time more mindful?
Put my fork down while I fully chew each bite.... then chase my boys around.

Fork Down Slow Down Your Eating

As I'm rushing from place to place, I have a terrible habit of eating while I'm driving. I've gobbled down whole bags of rice crackers or chocolate covered almonds without even noticing. Then I feel crappy both physically & mentally. I also have a bad habit of eating while working at my desk. 

How do I make eating more mindful?
NO multi-tasking while eating. If I'm so hungry that I need a snack instantly, then I can turn the car off and wait until I'm done eating. Or scheduling a lunch break at work and leaving my phone at my desk.

No cell phones at dinner

There is SO much more I want to share with you but at the risk of making this post way too long, I'll end it with one of my favourite things I read on Head Space when researching mindful eating.

Food doesn’t just jump to the plate or from the shelves on its own. It takes a hand to reach out and choose a certain item, and, more often than not, that action is based on our thoughts and feelings around food rather than nutritional requirements or a regime or what’s good for our bodies.

The more we notice how our daily food intake is influenced by those thoughts and emotions, the more we notice those patterns and how we’ve been conditioned over the years. The more we recognize those early influences, the better positioned we are to decide what and when we choose to eat. What we eat is our business and our business alone, but mindful eating helps us to determine what’s right for our bodies and our health.

I hope you find this post helpful. I hope you'll feel encouraged to explore your own version of Eating Mindfully this November and forever.
xo Shelley

October 28, 2019 — Shelley Gordon

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