Sunday, January 20, 2013

Be Mindful To Yourself

If there is anything that you will learn about the Kotyk family within a few hours of spending time with any one of us, it is that we are FAST eaters. Embarrassingly fast. Usually our plates are clean by the time a guest has finished pouring gravy into their mashed potato well. Friends and family who join us at the table are generally always left finishing their meal while we wait and stare at our long-ago emptied plates, wondering "Why is this person taking so long to eat?" It's bad and unhealthy to eat as quickly as we do and even though I have been trying to consciously eat more slowly and take my time in between bites, it's a hard habit to break. I try especially hard when I eat over at other people's houses because I don't want them to think that I was raised by wolves.

Last year I watched The Weight of a Nation on HBO which is a four-part documentary, and really enjoyed the part about Mindful Eating (which is on part 3 of the series). Mindless Eating is basically when you stuff your face and polish off your plate of food without giving it much thought. We don't appreciate, experience or really even truly enjoy the food because it's here and gone so quickly. According to The Center for Mindful Eating, "Mindful eating draws substantially on the use of mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness helps focus our attention and awareness on the present moment, which in turn, helps us disengage from habitual, unsatisfying and unskillful habits and behaviors. Engaging in mindful eating meditation practices on a regular basis can help us discover a far more satisfying relationship to food and eating than we ever imagined or experienced before." 

What the documentary showed was people who worked on trying to connect their brain and their body more by sitting, looking at the food, smelling the food and just being with the food before eating. They would stop and really focus on whether their desire to eat the food was based on hunger and the need to eat for nourishment or if the hunger was just boredom or emotion. Basically it was to pay attention to your internal self and then be able to make the choice of eating or not and not base the decision on past experiences (emotion, habit, routine, thoughts, feelings). And then if the person does decide to eat then it is a very accepting, non-judgmental and positive action full of attention to what is being eaten and appreciating the food and sensory experiences.

After I watched that documentary I really focused on stopping in between bites, chewing what I was eating to focus on the flavour and feel of it in my mouth and wait until I had swallowed until I took another bite. Yes I do forget A LOT of the time and find myself mindlessly shoveling mounds of food in my mouth, but I am so much better then how I used to be and will hopefully get better with time. If you're like me and want to change the way you eat, one meal at a time, try some of these Mindful Eating Strategies:

1) Start by recognizing that you are hungry before you start eating
2) Don't wait until you're famished
3) Choose food that will satisfy both your body and your mind
4) Eat without distractions
5) Eat when you're sitting down
6) Take a few breaths and center yourself before you begin eating
7) Appreciate the appearance and what looks the most appetizing
8) Appreciate the aroma and tastes of the food when you eat it
9) Pause for 2 minutes in the middle of eating
10) Stop eating as soon as you feel satisfied

There are more tips on and lots of other bits of information too. I think that eating like this is a great idea and would solve a lot of people's eating problems. So many digestive issues alone would be helped by people chewing their food properly and not overeating. Stopping and thinking about why you eat and stop obsessing about it and just enjoying it would be helpful in so many ways.

So next time you're loading your plate with a monster helping of Colander spaghetti, stop and think about what you're doing. Whether it be a plate of spaghetti, a crisp apple or piece of chocolate, be more mindful in your actions and appreciate your body and the nutrients that you fuel it with.


  • 2006, The Center for Mindful Eating.
  • 2004-2012 May, Michelle M.D. Mindful Eating: Get Out Of Autopilot.

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