Raise your hand if you’ve found yourself, eating something that you didn’t even know you were eating OR finished a bag of something when you thought you only had a few. I know my hand is raised. This is “mindless” eating. It isn’t just unhealthy; it creates a dangerous relationship with food that can last a lifetime if you’re not careful. Over the years I’ve started practicing being more mindful when I eat. This means when I eat I set out a portion, no longer digging in the bag or box directly. I also try to not be watching TV, reading or doing something that will keep me from focusing on what I’m doing. I started to do this because mindful eating helps us to focus on identifying “hunger cues”, you know that one really tell us hat we are actually hungry and requires food rather than just eating because you like how something tastes or because you feel like it.
To identify whether or not you’re hungry you need to take a look at the different kinds of hunger you can experience.
First there’s natural hunger, it’s when your body is telling you that it needs food or nourishment. Think about those times you go for HOURS without eating and you get a little hangry. I can’t be the only person who gets like this.
The next is thirst hunger which feels like hunger your body is dehydrated and looking for anyway to get moisture into it. This one is easy to solve be sure to be drinking a glass of water at least every hour you are awake. Now I know some of you will start to negotiate. I know I love coffee and tea but those aren’t really going to cut it in the hydration game, neither will soda or juices. Focus on having plain water. Add in a lemon or other natural flavorings such as fruit, cucumbers or mint to have it have flavor without the unnecessary calories or chemicals.
The last kind of hunger is known as “emotional hunger” and it can be the most dangerous. How often have you been stressed and reached for something to munch on? Emotional hunger is brought on by stress, sadness, anger, or other emotional stressors and often makes you crave specific “comfort foods” that you can scarf down before you even realize it.
More than anything else the bane of weight loss is mindless eating and snacking, or “grazing.” This is my Achilles heel. When you’ve got a bowl of popcorn of a bag of chips it’s easy to just reach your hand in and eat a little at a time without realizing it because you’re only having one or two chips or pieces of popcorn. The problem is that one or two and one or two tend to add up quickly into a whole lot.
This over eating can be both good foods and not so good foods.
So how do you tell what kind of hunger you’re feeling? Well, mindful eating on the whole helps you to identify that. One of the key concepts is choosing to slowly eat and savor the food you’re eating. Taking your time to chew and enjoy each bite not only lets you enjoy the flavors of your meal. Taking your time while eating gives your body plenty of time to decide if it wants more or if it’s done eating. One of the best recommendations I can give you is put your fork down between bites and not picking it up again until you’ve swallowed, you’ll start to appreciate how full each bite ends up making you feel. I recently attended an event where we had to eat a Hershey’s kiss for 10 minutes. We had to look at it then smell it, then listen to the sound of the foil wrapping. THEN we had to put in on our tongues and wait a solid 10 minutes before we could bite. Now think about how you typically eat a Hershey’s kiss, you grab it pop it in your mouth and no sooner than you’ve finished swallowing you have another kisses unwrapped and ready to go.
This is a process, it will take time, but trust me you will get the hang of it. As you spend more and more time eating mindfully, you’ll find that you’re able to identify whether you’re actually hungry and need it or if you just want that snack because it you smell deliciousness coming from across the room. Trust me when you take the time to identify what your body is trying to tell you, you’ll be able to decide for yourself if you’re hungry once you start to do that, you will never use the word DIET again!!