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Jeffrey: Eating mindfully pays dividends

Published January 24. 2013 4:00AM

When I established my dietetic private practice in 2007, I began to learn about and practice mindful eating. As my knowledge increased, I incorporated mindful eating concepts into individual counseling sessions and into my daily life with wonderful success.

In December 2012, I became a licensed Facilitator of Am I Hungry?®, a comprehensive program that teaches participants to recognize and cope with their triggers for overeating and reconnect with their physical signals to guide when, what and how much to eat without restrictive diet rules.

This approach helps individuals become more mindful about both their eating and living, helping them to learn how to create new, healthier habits. I believe that my life is richer for learning to be more mindful in how I eat and live.

As with any new habit, it takes practice to eat mindfully (I am still experimenting with what works best for me to eat and live mindfully the majority of the time.) One of the ultimate goals of mindful eating is to stop eating when you are comfortably full or satisfied. To help you do this, try the following suggestions the next time you eat.

Pause before beginning to eat and ask yourself, "How hungry am I on a scale of 1 to 10?" Number 1 signifies ravenous while 5 is satisfied and 10 is sick to your stomach.

Then ask "How much food will fit comfortably in my stomach?"

Pay close attention to the appearance, aroma, taste and texture of food; savor every bite. Place utensil down and sit back in your chair between bites.

When you take a break from eating, take a deep breath and check in with your body to determine how full you are.

Chew slowly and mindfully. Wait until you have finished chewing to put more food on your utensil. Do you currently do this? Or, are you multi-tasking by chewing while simultaneously thinking about the next bite of food and putting that bite on your utensil? Doing this does not allow you to truly taste and experience the food you have in your mouth because you cannot fully pay attention to two things at once.

Among other recommendations, sip your beverage. Engage in conversation with others. Know that this will not be the last time you eat these foods because you can enjoy them again at another meal or snack especially if you have leftovers.

As soon as comfortably full, put down your fork and stop eating. Sit back and enjoy the pleasant feeling of fullness. What are you feeling? Are you disappointed that you are full? Are you anxious or uncomfortable that you are not eating but others are?

Is it better to continue eating with others leading you to overeat and feel guilty because you ate until you were uncomfortable? Or, is it more pleasurable and rewarding to eat until satisfied so that you feel content and proud for stopping at a comfortable level of fullness? Please think about and examine how you feel during this experiment. Stay curious about this experience and learn from it. It may help to journal about it.

Save leftovers for when you are hungry and need to fuel your body again. Allow yourself 10 to 15 minutes before going for seconds. This allows you to correctly determine your fullness level since it takes time for your stomach to signal your brain.

Practice is key to mastering the art of mindful eating and achieving health goals. Eating mindfully takes the "power" away from food and gives it back to its rightful owner, you. Eating mindfully helps to rediscover internal signals enabling you to eat normally and reach goals.

KATIE JEFFREY IS CERTIFIED AS A SPECIALIST IN SPORTS DIETETICS AND THE OWNER OF FITNUTRITION LLC IN STONINGTON. FOR INFORMATION CALL (860) 917-6131 OR GO ONLINE TO WWW.FITNUTRITION.NET.

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