Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Eating with Awareness and Enjoyment

I don't know about you, but I have a tendency to eat with distraction and divided attention, not awareness and enjoyment!

This is in spite of being told by every weight loss program I've tried and numerous articles about how important it is to pay attention to your food, to present it well, to enjoy every bite. But I'm always busy and trying to do too many things and eating doesn't seem that important. So I do it at the computer or I rush through dinner so I can get back to the computer or my workout or whatever it is that seems more important than paying attention to my food.

So, in an effort to get my butt in gear, I'm going over Karen Koenig's tips for "Eating with Awareness and Enjoyment".

Before you eat, look at your food, the portion size, its presentation. Breathe deeply.

Okay, did you giggle when you read "Breathe deeply"? I did. This is why I have always had trouble with this concept. Put my food onto a special placemat and put a flower on the table? Please, I don't even wear make-up or jewelry most of the time. That is so not me.

But taking a breath before eating is probably a good idea for someone like me who has a tendency to jump into my food like it's a pool and then inhale.

Chew every mouthful thoroughly to release flavor.

Let food sit on your tongue to let your taste buds absorb flavor.

Lots of programs tell their bariatric patients to chew their food to mush. This advice comes from bad experiences of bypass and band patients who have a stoma that food can get stuck in. So it's not something that most people need to worry about. Plus, mush? How unappetizing is that?! But chewing thoroughly is another matter and, whenever I remember to do that, it's a revelation. Food is just SO much better when you can actually taste it.

When you’re talking, stop eating and when you’re eating, stop talking.

First of all, talking while you are eating is gross to the people who have to watch you! That doesn't necessarily stop us from doing it. I think it's more of that "multi-tasking" thing. Or maybe it's a "food isn't important enough to stop doing what I'm doing" thing.

But I've gotten much better at not doing it and I pledge to completely stop.

Stay connected to your body’s appetite signals while you’re eating. 

Pause while you’re eating to see how you’re feeling about your food in terms of quality and quantity.

More good advice that wil keep you from over-eating. For me, one bite too many leads to great discomfort so paying attention to my full signals is important. But I have tendency to be thinking about other things when I eat and not be present for my eating.

I actually have rules about not doing that in other areas of my life so it's time to add food to the activities that I will do with my full attention.

Push away guilt and shame while you’re eating and focus on sensory pleasure.

I bet this is one that a lot of people have trouble with including thin people. Food has so many loaded emotional issues for many of us and there are a lot of messages we receive about the moral value of food. There are so many shoulds and should nots that get in the way of picking foods that satisfy us and enjoying it while we're eating them.

Stop eating when flavor pleasure declines as it will after a while.

Rather than being determined to polish off all of the food in front of you, seek the moment when flavor peaks and you feel an internal “Ah” of satisfaction—and stop.

Keep asking yourself while you’re eating, “Am I full?” and “Am I satisfied?”

All three of these are really hard for me. First of all, if I measure out a certain amount of food, I feel like I should eat it. No matter what. Even if it gives me a pain in my chest and makes me want to throw up.

I like the idea of stopping when I'm satisfied even if I'm not full and definitely stopping when I'm full even if I'm not satisfied.

Those two concepts are actually hard for me. At one point, someone convinced me that satisfied is that one bite just before you are full. I tried that out for a while, but it didn't work for me. Then, in "The Rules of Normal Eating", I figured out why. These two are actually two completely independent concepts.

Think of it this way: You can eat a single Hershey's Kiss and be completely and utterly satisfied. But you sure aren't going to be full! At the same time, if you aren't eating what you really want to be eating, but something you just think you 'should' be eating, you may never get satisfied, but eventually you will get full.

Anyway, the idea that you should stop eating when you are satisfied even if you may not be full is a new concept for me and I haven't been been too successful at mastering. Heck, sometimes I'm not even successful at stopping when I'm full.

Part of what holds me back is that I have to get in a certain amount of calories when I'm at the height of my training and that's hard to do if I stop eating before I'm full. Plus, I've gone through most of my life almost never feeling satiety. I feel it now, but even now, it's often a pretty faint feeling and rather fleeting. Then, there is that whole "eat everything I've planned" thing mentioned above.

So this is definitely something to work on and I'm glad I read these tips today because it's something I've been forgetting to do after working on it a while a few months ago. But it's time to get back on the "eating with enjoyment" and "stopping when satisfied" horse.
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