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Sharp Health News

Celebrate the joy of eating

Jan. 28, 2016

Mindful eating

“Get ready for bikini season.” “Tricks to lose belly fat.” “How to lose weight fast."

Dieting messages like these fill the air, and can increase body dissatisfaction and dangerous dieting strategies. A focus on calorie counting and foods you “should” or “can’t” eat contribute to busted diets, yo-yoing weight and disordered eating. Instead, a growing number of health and nutrition experts promote mindful eating — a focus on the experience of eating without judgment.

“Mindful eating is essentially the opposite of dieting, and can help free people from the dieting cycle,” says Ursula Ridens, RD, registered dietitian nutritionist at Sharp HealthCare. “The focus is health and well-being, not weight.”

Finding eating satisfaction is key to promoting physical and mental health.

Eating dissatisfaction comes from:

  • Overeating — stress eating, habit eating, boredom eating, emotional eating
  • Undereating — not making time to eat, putting other priorities first
  • Dieting — focusing on weight and food deprivation
  • Mindless eating — not putting thought or care into the how, what and why of eating

Eating satisfaction comes from:

  • Enjoying food — savoring the flavors and experience of eating guilt-free
  • Noticing the power of food — feeling the energy, satiety and wellness that nourishing foods provide
  • Appreciating your body — giving permission to nourish your body well for all that it does
  • Tuning in to your body cues — honoring your internal hunger and fullness

Studies show that adopting mindful eating practices provides many benefits:

  • Better self-esteem and body image
  • Reduction in overeating
  • Less anxiety over food
  • Decrease in disordered eating
  • Improved blood sugar control
  • Increased HDL (“good”) cholesterol 
  • Lower triglycerides
  • Lower body mass index

To move toward eating more mindfully, ask yourself the following six key questions:

  • Why do I eat? Is my body signaling me to eat because I’m physically hungry? Do I recognize any other triggers or situations that are making me want food even though I’m not physically hungry?
  • When do I want to eat? How often does my body physically need nourishment? How do I know if I’m hungry?
  • What do I eat? Will the foods that I choose feel satisfying and support my health? What foods do I choose when I’m eating out of boredom or when I’m stressed?
  • How do I eat? Do I eat when I’m distracted or while multi-tasking? Do I eat fast? Do I slow down and use all of my senses to focus on the taste and experience of the meal?
  • How much do I eat? How do I feel when I’m done eating? How do I know when to stop eating?
  • Where do I invest my energy? Am I physically active? Do I find enjoyable ways to move my body? Do I spend time taking good care of myself?

Source: Mindful Eating Cycle by Dr. Michelle May

To learn more about mindful eating and Sharp’s Nutrition Education and Counseling Program, or to schedule an appointment, please call the Sharp HealthCare Outpatient Nutrition Counseling Program at 619-740-4632.

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