Mindful Eating in a Fast-Paced World
I recently watched a documentary about weight loss on a well known "premium channel." The documentary went into great detail about our society and the fast paced world we live in, which has given rise to our dependence on "fast food," and caused an obesity epidemic nationwide. In this documentary I learned of a clever program and a place that some people go to for the practice of "mindful eating." I watched as a couple sat down to eat at their table with a beautiful white table cloth and ever so perfect place settings in a picturesque backyard with birds singing in the background. They smiled as they gazed lovingly into each others eyes taking some long careful deep breaths. Finally, after what seemed like eons, they began to carefully and mindfully consume their well constructed meal. I watched as they glanced at their fork, and turned the fork ever so slightly to examine every morsel of food that was carefully placed on their plate. This whole scenario that I had just witnessed, left me with one burning question, "Who has the time to eat like this anymore?" Let's face it, we all know about the state of our economy and the need for double income households. If your not retired or pleasantly well off you probably rarely sit at a table for meals other than for dinner, if your lucky.
I myself, have practiced mindful eating and have successfully lost 90 pounds after my second child eating this way. I did an amazing job listening to my body and knowing when I was hungry and when I was feeling bored or anxious. I could descern the two and make appropriate decisions for myself. Every meal was an event, appreciated, adourned, anticipated and consumed in delight. I stopped when I was full and almost never overate.
However, since becoming a single mom and having to rejoin the workforce 5 years ago, I packed on the pounds by way of "mindless eating." As a matter of fact, as a home health nurse, most of my meals are in the car and are of the hand held kind, enabling me to drive and eat at the same time while in between patients. It didn't take me long to realize that I had fallen victim to my lifestyle and my fast paced world of work, motherhood, cook, chauffering, housecleaner. You name the job, I do it. But, I still managed to lose 20 pounds in my fast paced life by utilizing "mindful eating" and adapting it to my new busy lifestyle. This is how I lost the weight and how I continue to maintain my weight.
1. The cornerstone for my weight loss and instituting "mindful eating" in my daily routine is centered around meditation. Once in the morning is sufficient enough to place me in a greater state of awareness throughout my day. Everyone has the choice to carve out at least 10 minutes of their day first thing in the morning to meditate. Just plan on going to bed 10 minutes earlier the night before.
2. After meditating, I make my breakfast and packed my lunch for the day while I am still in my most heightened state of awareness. This allows me to mindfully think about the foods that are going into my meals for breakfast and lunch beforehand, while I have some time for myself and am not barraged with a deluge of information from my workday consumed with tiny bits of "to do lists" running rampant through my mind.
3. Then I signed up with an online diet journal site like www.myfitnesspal.com. In the event I woke up late and had no time to pack a lunch and/or if I ate out at a restaurant, I could conciously see how many calories I was consuming before consuming them. Many websites like these have applications for your phone as well. Research has shown that people who write down what they eat before they eat it lose more weight. This is another example of "mindful eating." If you have to eat fast food, before you pull into the drive-thru, look up the food you plan to consume and become mindfully aware of the calories and fat that you may be consuming to make a more mindful, informed choice.
4. Finally, while eating your meal, whether it be in the car, at your desk, or in a cafeteria with a hundred people, eat slowly, and find ways to drown out all of the distractions that you possibly can. In your car? Turn off the radio and pull into a parking lot for a few minutes while you eat. If your at your desk, ask the receptionist to place your calls on hold for at least 10-15 minutes while you eat lunch. In a noisy cafeteria? Focus on your tray of food in front of you and become aware of your breathing pattern, as in meditation. Also, don't be tempted to use your cellular phone, you should be essentially "unplugged" during this time, so you can gain awareness of the cues that your body is sending you in regards to when you are full and when you should stop eating.
Amongst all the commotion of our hectic lives, if we begin the day with meditation, we can become more successful in the practice of mindful eating, Meditation teaches us to be an observer of our thoughts, not to be consumed by them. When we become the mindful observer we can then make better choices by listening to our bodies more often, enabling us to better decide if we are really hungry for food or if are we simply trying to numb some deeply ingrained feeling of pain, anxiety or boredom. Through this process, you will have a smoother journey through the practice of establishing a lifetime habit of mindful eating in our fast paced world.