Mindful Eating: Defining, Demystifying and Determining Practical Applications, Part 3by Lisa Diers, R.D., L.D., E-R.Y.T.
We have come to the third portion of our Mindful Eating Series: Determining Practical Applications. So far, we have practiced Defining mindful eating and aspects of the practice as well as Demystifying.
Please keep in mind that there is no “perfect” way to approach mindful eating. Your way is perfect. Depending on your unique needs, your practice of mindful eating may be different than what you read here or anywhere else. Maybe for you, right now, it means acknowledging that for a long time, hunger and fullness, food choices and eating practices have been driven by rules and external ideals. Maybe for you, mindful eating is intentionally practicing feeding your body in a way that is truly caring for and fulfilling your body’s needs. Guess what? You can take the best and leave the rest and tailor this to what you need right now. It’s a process. The fact you have been reading this series gives you a clue that there is interest in healing or finding a healthier approach to eating. Curiosity and interest are important steps in “Rediscovering, Reconnecting and Repairing” your relationship to food!
Okay, let’s see if we can break it down into some practical and accessible steps:
Before, During and After the Eating Experience:
1) Assess your breath: Invite in a deep inhale and longer exhale breath. Perhaps even try a form of mindful movement that fits your body’s needs¬. Yoga postures like Breath of Joy or a variation of Downward Facing Dog are good options. For many, these approaches bring about a calming effect to the nervous system.
Calm(er) body and mind = More mindful choices
2) Get Curious/Not Furious: Are you hungry? What type of hunger is it? Physical? Emotional? How do you know? Where do you feel it? If you would like to explore hunger and fullness cues further, talk to your Registered Dietitian or consider exploring other reputable resources such as The Center for Mindful Eating. Try not to judge what you find. And try not to “judge the judging.” Remember, it is information. Do nothing or something with it. You have choices and options.
3) Address: Now that you have a sense of your hunger cues, move with intention. How will I feed myself based on my assessment? What do I need to support increased or sustained awareness (consider the previous posts in this series: grounding, centering, prayer, quote...) Also keep in mind, sometimes it can be really helpful to have a general plan of what you are going to eat ahead of time and know you can adjust this based on what you discover in your assessment. Especially when you are first starting this practice.
In summary, Bring Awareness to the eating experience. To how you feel, what you feel, what you choose to do based upon that awareness. To what you are purchasing, preparing, plating, consuming and cleaning up.
To begin, you may think of this as a 3 step formula or rhythm:
a. Breath and Centering (see (1) above and previous posts)
b. Attentive Awareness (Gentle curiosity to wandering thoughts; seeing, smelling, tasting your food; noticing hunger and fullness as appropriate to your process.)
c. Breath and Centering
These beginning steps could help rebuild the bridge between your body and mind when it comes to eating. Each time you practice, you learn. Each time you learn, you gain knowledge. Each time you gain knowledge, you have the opportunity to make informed choices.
Try to keep in mind: “The Art of Being Mindful is Knowing When You Are Not”. This is the most important step in creating a mindful practice of any type, not only eating. When you notice the moments you are unaware, guess what? You are building awareness! Awareness is a crucial key in the positive change process. Be curious as to what door of potential it could open with in you. You are unlimited!
About the Author
Lisa is The Emily Program's Director of Nutrition and Yoga Services. Lisa oversees the national operations of both nutrition and yoga departments, which includes the direction and oversite of the clinical practices for 65+ nutrition staff and 20+ yoga instructors. She has over 10 years of eating disorder specific experience in yoga instruction, clinical nutrition counseling and program development. Lisa draws from her deep knowledge base of nutrition, yoga, body image and eating disorder treatment to meet clients' physical and emotional needs. She develops and conducts national eating disorder and body image sensitive yoga trainings and is also a regular blogger on nutrition, yoga and body image; a published author (articles, book chapters and published research); and continues to conduct research to better understand the role of yoga and nutrition in eating disorder recovery.