"Don't just hork it down"
My kids grew up watching animated movies, and there was a time as a young parent where I think I went several years without watching an actual live action film. To me, Pixar movies are the best. The quote above comes from a great scene in Ratatouille where Remy, the main character, teaches his brother to love food. As his brother tosses a wad of cheese down his gullet, he's scolded, "No, no, no...don't just hork it down."
Remy then proceeds to teach his brother how to eat carefully, enjoying the experience. Sometimes I try to remember this scene, especially when I get my hands on one of those foods (e.g. wife's cinnamon rolls - only allowed to eat on Christmas Day) where I find it hard to control the urge to race through the experience of eating.
I like to believe Remy is an early practitioner of mindful eating.
Mindfulness is a concept which has been gaining in popularity over the last decade. In particular, mindfulness meditation is espoused by many as helpful to improve productivity and general well-being. Studies in people with diabetes have shown that mindfulness approaches have been beneficial to reduce depressive symptoms and anxiety, diabetes-related stress, and improve well-being and health-related quality of life.
Mindfulness can be defined as "a capacity for enhanced and sustained moment-to-moment awareness of one's own mental and emotional state and being, in the context of one's own immediate environment." In a very general way I like to think of it as cultivating an awareness or understanding of why you are doing what you are doing. Mindful eating involves becoming aware of emotions, sensations, and external cues that prompt you to eat, your experience and enjoyment of food in the moment, and thoughts or judgments you might experience before, during, or after eating.
One way to conceptualize how to use mindfulness for your health would be to say:
Is Mindful Eating Useful?
Although studies on the benefit of mindful eating are mixed, my interpretation is that the approach is worthy of consideration. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism caught my attention, as it found that mindfulness-based eating strategies not only helped people to lose weight (6.5 pounds over 6 months, vs. 0.5 pounds in the control group), but also improved people's self-esteem and confidence in self-management of body weight. Who doesn't want more confidence and self-esteem?
A sample of mindful eating for you
The classic mindful eating is called the "raisin exercise" but can be done with any food you enjoy (chocolate is a favorite). A simple version would proceed like this:
If you find the concept of mindful eating interesting or wish to explore more, please check out this article, especially tables 3 and 4, which will share concepts and resources you can use to apply in your own situation.
Mindful eating is one tool you can use to help understand and gain control over the many forces that drive us to eat.
Dr. Topher Fox
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