Wellness Pathway #271 Mindful Eating

I have written before about the importance of mindful eating. It is the secret to both lifelong weight control and full enjoyment of the eating experience. Mike Alafaci’s Provision, Choose Your Speed, applies to eating as well as it does to every other area of life. There are times to go fast and times to go slow. Unfortunately, in eating as in most other arenas, we find ourselves stuck in high gear. Even when there is no rush to finish our food, we seldom take the time to slow down and savor the experience.

This certainly contributes to the overweight and obesity epidemic of the modern world. Two recent studies, at Duke University and Indiana State, taught participants to listen to their bodies so they could better feel when they were hungry and when they were satiated. The result? Although eating less and weight loss was not the goal, that was exactly what happened as participants learned to enjoy their food more and to eat only when their bodies were hungry.

The key, of course, is to recognize the difference between what Judy Wardell has called “stomach hunger” and “heart hunger. Trying to satisfy “heart hunger” with food is a hopeless task. When that happens, we always overeat. Food cannot satisfy “heart hunger.” One helpful technique is to rub your stomach while asking yourself the question, “Am I hungry?” This can bring “stomach hunger” into focus.

To decide whether or not to eat, and how much to eat, Wardell suggests ranking your “stomach hunger” on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being empty, 5 being comfortable, and 10 being stuffed. You can do this periodically throughout the day and even throughout a meal. By rubbing your stomach and gauging your physical hunger, you will automatically make better decisions when it comes to food.

Such mindful eating works not only by increasing our awareness of “stomach hunger” but also by postponing the urge to eat. As you pause to ask yourself that question, “Am I hungry?”, you give your metabolism a chance to catch up with your urge to eat. It takes about 20 minutes for the food we eat to increase our blood sugar. Those 20 minutes represent the danger zone, when we are most likely to overeat because we still feel hungry even though we have consumed enough food. Mindful eating can help us get through the danger zone until we again feel comfortable.

Mindless eating has the exact opposite effect. We put food in our mouths without even realizing it, often while doing other things such as driving, watching television, or working on the computer. This always leads to overeating. It’s possible to eat mindlessly, even when we knowingly sit down to eat a snack or a meal. By going to fast, and failing to pay attention to our “stomach hunger,” we shovel in far more food than we realize.

Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch have written about this in terms of “intuitive eating.” Blasting all diets as ultimately counterproductive, they too want us to learn how to listen and trust our bodies in terms of when, what, and how much to eat. That’s the intuition they want us to develop. But it will only happen with mindfulness. Until we learn to slow down and to feel our hunger, we will never master the art of lifelong weight control and eating fulfillment.

Coaching Inquiries: Do you choose your speed when it comes to food? How often do you choose to eat slow? Do you eat on a schedule or only when you are physically hungry? What could assist you to become more of a mindful eater? If you rub your stomach and gauge your hunger right now, what do you learn?

To reply to this Pathway, use our Feedback Form. To learn more about our Wellness Coaching programs and to arrange for a complimentary wellness coaching session, use our Contact Form or Email Bob.

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
2010-2011 President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org

Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452
Fax: (772) 382-3258
Skype: LifeTrek
Twitter: @LifeTrekBob
Subscribe/Unsubscribe: Subscriber Services