Do you find yourself eating while talking, typing, driving, or sitting in front of the television?  It’s easy to consume excess calories when you’re not fully paying attention to what’s going into your mouth.  Taking the time to experience your food can help you eat less and feel more satisfied.  Avoiding mindless excess calories now can add up to significant weight loss later.


Keep food out of the car.  Multi-day road trips aside, wait until you get out of the car to consume meals and snacks.  Not only will you decrease your chance of mindlessly consuming calories, you’ll keep you and your passengers safer.  A 2009 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that nearly 80% of all car accidents involve eating drivers!

Unplug yourself!  Turn off the computer, the television, the cellphone, or any other distractions and devote your full attention to your meal.

Have a seat.  It’s difficult to appreciate what you’re eating if you’re moving around.  Create a place setting for yourself, take a load off, and get a good look at what you have to eat.

Awaken your senses.  Use all five of your senses to experience your food.  Look at the colors on your plate.  Smell each component of your meal.  As you lift your food to your mouth feel its weight and heft.  Notice the taste of your food and how it develops as you chew.  Observe all the varying textures of each part of your meal.

Check in with your emotions.  Ask yourself how you were feeling before the meal started, throughout your meal, and after you were finished.  Notice how different foods make you feel emotionally and energetically.

Observe your hunger level.  If you could quantify your hunger from 1 to 10 (1 = stuffed, 10 = starving), what number would you give it before and after you eat?  Try to differentiate between physical hunger and the desire to eat for other reasons.

Experience your food without judgment.  Take pleasure in the characteristics of the food you enjoy without self-criticism.  Appreciate what’s in front of you and enjoy the experience of taking it in.

Acknowledge the intimacy of eating.  The food we eat makes its way into every single cell in our body in one form or another.  What is on your plate is soon to be a part of you!
 
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Today’s post is a quick reminder to take a time out when you need it.  Simple breathing exercises can help you relax and calm your mood.  A few minutes of breathing meditation can help clear your mind for the rest of your day.  Here are a few ideas:


Shoulder Shrugs:
  • Stand or sit up with a straight spine.
  • Inhale and shrug your shoulders up towards your ears, creating tension.
  • Exhale and roll your shoulder blades down and back.
  • Repeat 4-5 times.

Sharp exhale:
  • Sit in a chair with both feet planted on the floor, close your eyes.
  • Place one hand on your belly, just above your bellybutton.
  • Take a big inhale through your nose.
  • Let the air out of your lungs in short sharp bursts, like you’re trying to blow your nose.
  • Take about 8-10 bursts to empty your exhale entirely.
  • As you’re exhaling feel your hand on your belly move up and in with your bursts.

Countdown
  • Let your eyes float closed, seated or standing.
  • Inhale deeply through your nose, counting to 4 in your head as you do.
  • Retain your breath for a couple of seconds.
  • Exhale completely, counting down from 8 as you do.

Stress reliever
  • Let your eyes float closed, seated or standing.
  • Take a deep inhale through your nose.
  • Open your mouth and exhale completely, making an “ah” sound.

 
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Today’s post is a simple reminder to listen to your body.  We’ve all got so many distractions in front of us (Gasp- I see one in front of you right now!), it can be easy to ignore what subtle messages your body and brain are sending to you.  Here are some guidelines for reconnecting with the one possession you’ll take with you throughout your whole life:

Take care of yourself above all else.  All of us care for others in our lives.  However it’s impossible to be fully available to someone else if you’re not taking care of yourself.  In Ganga White’s book Yoga Beyond Belief he makes a good argument for self care:

How would you act if you received a wonderful new car when you were sixteen years of age but were told this was to be your only vehicle for your entire lifetime?  How would you care for it?

Don’t ignore those “postcards from your body.”  Pain, aching, fatigue, sleep trouble, skin conditions, digestive issues- all of these are ways your body speaks to you.  Pushing these issues to the side will only make them more persistent.  Work with a healthcare practitioner to uncover the root of your issues.

Remember that you are what you eat.  This old adage really is true!  What you eat never truly leaves you; a large part of it is broken down and absorbed right into you.  Keep this idea in mind when choosing, preparing, and eating your food.  Choose thoughtfully, prepare with love, and eat with awareness.

Meditate.  It can be easy to live life focused on what’s in front of you, remember to take time out to look at where you are.  Meditation does not have to involve sitting silently on a silk cushion in a dark room!  Take a few deep breaths, draw some awareness to how you feel physically, how you feel mentally, and what your surroundings are.  Quieting your brain for a few minutes each day can help sharpen your focus on what’s really important in your life.


To learn more about eating mindfully, check out this post from last month.

 
As humans we tend to react pretty quickly.  Things provoke us in life, and sometimes we respond automatically without much thought.  Slowing down and thinking through mealtime has a number of advantages, both physical and mental.  Let’s start with the concrete world of physical benefits!

Less gas and bloating:  If you chew and swallow food quickly, you also swallow quite a bit of air.  That air has to come out one end or the other at some point!  Food that isn’t chewed properly could also end up fermenting in your gut, which will just create more gas and bloating.

Better nutrient absorption:  Digestion starts in the mouth, where your teeth and enzymes within your saliva break down food.  Your grub needs to be chewed properly in order to free the nutrients up for absorption.  Before you swallow, food should be chewed long enough that its texture and shape no longer resembles what went in your mouth.  That means broccoli should be chewed until it no longer feels like broccoli on your tongue.

Eat what you need, nothing more:  Our digestive system has a number of signals it sends to the brain when the stomach is full.  It can take up to twenty minutes for the brain to receive that message!   When we slow down at mealtime we can take time to observe whether or not we are satiated.

Here are some mental benefits to chew on:

Enjoy your food:  A satisfying meal involves all of your senses.  Take some time to savor the color and appearance of your food.  Observe all the obvious and subtle smells.  As you’re chewing (thoroughly) notice how the flavor settles into your tongue.

Calm down:  Eating mindfully is a meditative process.  Stepping out of your busy day to appreciate a wholesome meal can help you feel more emotionally balanced.

If you’d like to read more about mindful eating, check out any book by Susan Albers PsyD.