The Mindful Way to a Healthy Lifestyle
“Don’t just look, observe. Don’t just swallow, taste. Don’t just sleep, dream. Don’t just think, feel. Don’t just exist, live.”
Most of us go throughout our day on auto pilot, flying along through our daily routine. Having a routine and things constant helps us organize ourselves and lives better, but that very routine can hamper our goals towards a healthy lifestyle. When we are on auto pilot, we may unconsciously choose foods and experiences that take us further away from actually feeling and looking good. Everyone at one point has fallen under the pressure of stress, whether at work, home, or with our families and soothed ourselves by picking up that sugary sweet or carb loaded processed something or other. We don’t even think about it, we just need some relief from the stress and some amount of good feeling. Let’s face it, food tends to be comforting. But, what if I told you that you can actually relieve stress, feel good, and stay healthy? That’s exactly what getting off of auto pilot will do, if you choose to experiment.
According to Harvard Health Publications, there is a small yet growing body of research suggesting that a slower, more thoughtful way of eating could help with weight problems and maybe steer some people away from processed food and unhealthy choices. The concept is nothing new to the world, Buddhist have taught about it for hundreds of years, they call it “Mindfulness.” It involves being fully aware of what is happening within and around you at the moment. Mindfulness techniques have also been offered as a way to relieve stress and alleviate problems like high blood pressure and chronic gastrointestinal difficulties. When you take the concept and apply it to eating, mindfulness includes noticing the colors, smells, flavors, and textures of your food; chewing slowly; getting rid of distractions like TV or reading; and learning to cope with guilt and anxiety about food.
So, how come this works you may ask? It’s all about your stomach and brain. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register that you are full after eating a meal. This means, that if you decided to wolf down your food, your brain is not going to register you are full and the feeling that you are still hungry will have you wolfing down another meal. There’s also reason to believe that eating while we’re distracted by activities like driving or typing may slow down or stop digestion similar to how the “stress” response does. And if we’re not digesting well, we may be missing out on the full nutritive value of some of the food we’re consuming. Ergo, we are still hungry and want more!
Well, now that you know why it would be a wise choice to use mindfulness to help maintain your healthy lifestyle or to kick start your weightloss journey below are some tips to get you started.
According to Harvard Health Publications and other experts, they suggest starting slowly by choosing to eat perhaps one meal a day or a week mindfully. The tips they offer include:
- Set your phone timer to 20 minutes, and take that time to eat a normal-sized meal.
- Try eating with your non-dominant hand; if you’re a righty, hold your fork in your left hand when lifting food to your mouth.
- Use chopsticks if you don’t normally use them.
- Eat silently for five minutes, thinking about what it took to produce that meal, from the sun’s rays to the farmer to the grocer to the cook.
- Take small bites and chew well.
- Before opening the fridge or cabinet, take a breath and ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?” Do something else, like reading or going on a short walk. Try drinking a glass of water.
As always, have patience and compassion with your journey. You are making a choice to be and stay healthy, that means being in love with your fitness!