NYC Nutrition and Mindful Eating

Mindful Eating“When walking, walk. When eating, eat.” (Zen Proverb)

This week many Americans will gather with family, sit at a dinner table, and give thanks. There’s something extraordinary about a holiday that has a sharing meal with family and friends as its centerpiece. What once used to be part of our culture – family meals – has become a luxury and rarity, a once-a-year occurrence. In fact, Thanksgiving  may be, for some, the only meal we eat while sitting with family, not rushing to respond to the thousand e-mails from the office, not getting it from a drive-thru and trying to finish it off before getting to work.

I would like to encourage us to take this day of thanks and bring it to our lives every meal, every day. A big part of health is not only what we eat, but also how we eat it. Mindful eating can become part of our daily food habits – being aware of where our food comes from, thankful for the hard work people did to grow it, harvest it, bring it to us, and finally cook it. Every meal is something special. Every meal is a celebration. Every bite that goes into our mouths and nourishes us is something to be grateful for.

Mindful EatingWhen we find time in our lives to be aware of our food, our bodies, and the way we approach meals, we can find ways to make mindful eating part of our daily habit. Here are some tips to make mindful eating a part of your routine:

STOP:  When we eat in a calm state, our digestion is better. I don’t expect us all to have time to meditate, but we can STOP – Stop. Take three breaths. Observe. Proceed. Before we take that first bite, pause.  STOP. This is also a great way to curb cravings. When we stop and consider what we’re going to eat, oftentimes we realize we’re not hungry and we’re eating for reasons that don’t have to do with hunger.

Gratitude: Americans have a long history of saying grace at the dinner table. Independent of what you believe, what religions you may or may not practice, being grateful for the food on our plates and what is going into our bodies to nourish us is a fundamental part of mindful eating. Express that gratitude – for the meal, for the people with whom we’re going to share the meal, for the colors on the plate, for the people who grew the food, harvested it, transported it to our grocery stores. For preparation and time it took for the food to get to your plate.

The Five Senses:  Mindful eating is a sensory experience – bringing alive all five senses. Instead of just relying on taste and smell, appreciate the colors of the food, the rich texture of mashed potatoes, the crunch of fresh vegetables. Feel the weight of your silverware in your hand, or the cold bumpy ridges of a celery stick. Pay attention to your senses while eating and appreciate them all.

Mindful EatingBe Positive: There’s a maxim that says you shouldn’t talk religion or politics at the dinner table. This is true. Meal time isn’t the time to solve the problems of the world. It should be a respite from the report we have due or the new boss we just can’t seem to get along with. Meal time should be a time of peace. Whether we take fifteen minutes or half an hour, make sure this time is one where we’re focused on eating and sharing, stripping away the rest.

When it’s time to eat, eat: Turn off the TV, the telephones, even the radio. Most overeating happens when we’re not paying attention. Make meal time a time of family, of sharing.  Carve out thirty minutes a day to sit with our kids, our spouse and share a meal. If we’re eating alone, take a few moments of quiet to ourselves. Watching the six o’clock news will do little to bring us together with the people sitting at the table and even less to help our digestion.

Attitude about Food: Many struggle with their relationship with food. Shift the focus from categorizing foods as “bad foods” and “good foods” and treat foods with respect and appreciate each food for the nutrients it brings and the way it fuels our body.

Mindful eating is something that can bring bits of gratitude and health to our lives every day. As much as I love Thanksgiving, I think we can all work to remember to celebrate it every day, every meal. And when life feels like chaos and the buzz of energy is everywhere, take a moment and STOP. Your body, your mind, your health and digestion will thank you for it.

Happy Thanksgiving.