While there is no ONE diet that is healthy for ALL people, there are a few guidelines for HOW to eat that will apply to most people. Mindful eating plays a big part in helping you make good food choices and maintain a healthy weight. Here are some of Dr. Cannizzaro’s helpful tips for eating, no matter what you have on your plate!
Mindful Eating Tip #1: Eat when you’re hungry, not when you’re bored (or stressed)
WHY you’re eating is just as important as WHAT you’re eating. But sometimes it’s hard to figure out if it’s hunger or an emotion that has you headed for the pantry or standing in front of an open refrigerator. The best way to cut down on emotional eating is to ask yourself: When was the last time I ate? Based on the timing and quality of my last meal, should I be hungry right now? Am I stressed/upset/unhappy right now? If you think your emotions are involved, try going for a short walk, write in your journal, do a few jumping jacks or play with your pet instead. Definitely drink a glass of water, since dehydration can also trigger hunger pangs.
Mindful Eating Tip #2: Avoid distracted eating (especially while watching TV)
Distracted eating can often sabotage your best efforts to maintain a healthy weight. When you’re distracted, whether it’s the TV or a task you’re doing, you might sit with an entire bag of something and not pay attention to portion size. In this case, it doesn’t matter if it’s a bag of potato chips or raw almonds. Mindless eating will always result in eating a far bigger portion than if you measure some out and put it in a bowl. Besides, it’s much more satisfying to enjoy your snack!
Mindful Eating Tip #3: Spend as much time enjoying the meal as it took to prepare it
Slowing down mentally and physically is better for our digestion! Mental calmness lets your nervous system switch into a parasympathetic mode, which is the state in which your body digests best. Under stress, the body turns off the parasympathetic or “rest and digest” mode in favor of the sympathetic or “fight or flight” mode. Remember, mealtime is the ideal time for family time! You might not be able to have a leisurely dinner every day but do it as much as you can. Plus, it is gratifying to the cook to see people savoring the meal instead of devouring hours of work in mere minutes.
Mindful Eating Tip #4: Eat slowly!
There’s a delay between your stomach being full and your brain getting the message that you’ve eaten enough food to satisfy your hunger. If you’re not wolfing down your food, you give your stomach and brain the time to communicate with each other.
Mindful Eating Tip #5: Stop eating before you’re full
Eating until your stomach hurts is no fun. Often this happens because we are eating too fast (see above), aren’t paying attention to our body cues and even loading up our plates with too much food; as the old saying goes, “Your eyes are bigger than your stomach.” It’s much easier to eat just until you’re full if you start with a smaller portion than you think you need, slow down and notice what your body is telling you. If you wait a few minutes for your stomach and brain to communicate, they will tell you whether you need to go for seconds or if you managed to eat just enough!
Mindful Eating Tip #6: The banquet is in the first bite
Have you ever noticed how GOOD a first bite of food tastes? Or a first sip of wine? In our sometimes-frenzied approach to refueling our bodies, we often neglect the simple act of enjoying our food. While this applies to everything we eat and drink, it is most handy when it comes to dessert and other splurges. Maintaining a healthy weight requires following a nutrition-rich, whole foods diet most of the time and splurging once in a while. Fully revel in your splurges! Eat that small bowl of ice cream slowly, noticing its sweetness and creaminess. Let that square of dark chocolate melt on your tongue. A small amount of dessert will satisfy you just as much as a larger portion if you take the time to enjoy it!
Mindful Eating Tip #7: Eat less
Fortunately, we live in a land of plenty. You will not starve if you don’t have that midnight snack. Thank God you have lots of food in your house—it will be there tomorrow—so just go to bed!
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