EDITOR'S NOTE: Guest blogger Cynthia Parrott is a busy working woman who manages to find the time for fitness, diet and the writing of great advice for health-conscious women.
"Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally." ~Jon Kabat-Zinn
Last week I shared with you some thoughts on mindful and mindless eating. We learned how to understand our relationships with food by being mindful of why we eat, when we eat, and what we eat.
We eat when we are not hungry, and when we are nervous, bored or frustrated. We use food as a quick-fix or a substitute to satisfy the true cravings of our hearts, minds and spirits.
Now that we can recognize the triggers that cause us to reach for food when we really don't want or need it, how do apply mindful eating to our daily lives?
Eat mindfully every day by incorporating a few simple rules
Eating meals on the go as you rush out the door, in the car, while working at your desk, over the kitchen sink, or in front of TV can set you up for failure.
You are not aware of why, when and how much you are consuming because your focus is elsewhere. The fact that you did not stop and sit down to eat might make you feel as if you never actually had a meal. You will not be satisfied and will keep eating until you are so full you cannot move.
Eating this way all the time is also not good for your digestion. You might begin to notice when you slow it down and take time to eat, those stomach ailments will miraculously disappear. Never eat on the run. Take time and make time to enjoy your meals.
Sit down at the table by yourself or with family, at least once a day. Dinnertime is perfect for this!
Eat your food slowly, chew it well, and savor the taste and the feel of it. Avoid turning on the TV or reading the paper. Light candles, engage in conversation, or listen to soft music. Pour some wine or sparkling water.
This should be a pleasant experience, not a stressful one.
Treat mealtime as a sacred act, appreciate your food and be thankful for it. Regardless of whether you cooked it yourself or you ordered Chinese take-out, give thanks to the earth for providing it and to the ones who lovingly prepared it.
Cook as many of your own meals as you possibly can.
There is a simple beauty in preparing your own food, even if it's just a sandwich. Make it the best sandwich you ever had. Pile it high with lean turkey breast or cheese, add some sliced home-grown tomatoes, shredded lettuce, pickles and whatever else you want and serve it on delicious whole-grain bread.
Take pride in what you prepare!
A box of mac and cheese might be quick and easy, but do you really experience joy in serving or eating it? If it is your only option or the one food you know your fussy kids will eat, toss in some steamed spinach, sprinkle a layer of breadcrumbs on top, and pop it in the oven for a few minutes.
Make it personal, make it beautiful, make it GOOD.
Anyone can open a can or a jar, but the delicious aroma of homemade soup or tomato sauce simmering on the stove will bring everyone to the kitchen from near and far.
Rather than despising the whole cooking process, take time to reflect on how much you love yourself and your family while you are preparing your meals. Think of how your family or friends will feel the love you poured into everything you serve them. This is your gift.
The benefit of cooking your own food is that you alone can take credit for it. You know exactly what's in your pasta dish and what's not. You patiently chopped the vegetables for the salad rather than ripping open a bag and dumping it into a big bowl.
You will appreciate your food more and be quickly satisfied not only from eating it but from the loving way you prepared and served it.
Poker games, football on Sundays and other gatherings are just as much fun without the traditional nachos, chips and dips, or chicken wings.
If you are the hostess and guests are expecting snacks to be served, put out trays of raw veggies, low-fat dip, hummus and homemade pita chips, or some cheese, nuts and fruit. These are much healthier alternatives and take a little longer to eat.
When something takes longer to eat, you will always eat less.
A trip to the movies is still enjoyable without the huge bucket of artificial butter-soaked popcorn, Twizzlers, and a gallon of soda.
Just because the concession stand is there and everyone else is doing it, doesn't mean you have to. This is a trap to get you to spend more money and the movie is expensive enough.
Eat at home and focus on enjoying the movie instead.
If you absolutely cannot see a movie without munchies, plan ahead and pack apple slices, dried fruit, cubed cheese, or smoked almonds in your purse.
Every date doesn't need to be at a restaurant or over drinks and appetizers. An evening at the beach watching the sunset or walking along the boardwalk can be just as nice.
How about catching up on all the gossip with your girlfriend while poring over some bestsellers at a local bookstore instead of meeting at the coffee shop and indulging in all those fattening cakes and pies?
Morning business meetings don't have to include an array of bagels, pastries and donuts. Chances are most employees have already eaten their breakfast before the meeting.
Every friendly gathering does not need to be centered around food.
Set up a volleyball net and get some exercise or agree to meet at a park to play baseball or to appreciate nature. Build a snowman or have a snowball fight in the winter.
At times we just gather together and eat because we don't know what else to do. Be creative. The possibilities are endless.
Have you ever observed a child at play? They are so absorbed in what they're doing that they don't want to stop. They are in the present moment and they are playing "mindfully!"
You repeatedly call them to the dinner table, beg them to stop and eat, or chase them around the house with food. But they are not the least bit interested.
Children have the right idea. They have no preconceived notions about food. They eat to live; they don't live to eat. They come to the table when they are hungry! They draw their joy and pleasure from the simplest of acts.
They might need a bottle of milk at night to help them sleep but eventually they all grow out of that as well. How many 5-year-olds do you know who still go to bed with a bottle? They simply replace that comfort with something else: a little song, a bedtime story, a kiss and hug.
Learn your lessons about food from children. Find things to do that bring you pleasure. Go out and play!
If the leftovers in the fridge are constantly calling you; get out the house and go do something! If cookies and milk before bed time is sabotaging your diet, replace that ritual with something that does not involve food... something wonderful... something that makes you feel good. Have fun and live life to the fullest!
Do you remember the last time you went to church or temple? It is a sacred place, a beautiful, well-kept sanctuary of peace and love.
How did you act while you were there? Were you loud and disrespectful or quiet and reflective? Did you wear your sweats and an old tee shirt or dress in your Sunday best? Did you snack on potato chips during prayer time and toss your crumbs on the floor or bow your head and close your eyes? Did you swing your legs up on the back of the seat in front of you or sit quietly with both feet planted on the floor, instructing your children to do the same?
Whether or not you are a person of faith, think of the most sacred and lovely place and begin to see your body in the same way. Be mindful of what you hear, what you watch, what you read and what you eat. Allow only good things to enter your temple and quickly reject the bad.
Come to terms with your flaws and imperfections, and improve the things you can, while accepting the things you cannot. Admire your assets and accentuate them. Your body is the beautiful shell that holds your heart and soul. Treat it with respect. Dress it in its finest.
Take a moment every day to be thankful for the body you have and love and appreciate it. It is this act of thanksgiving that causes miracles to happen and a transformation begins.
Your body becomes what you need and what you want just by the simple act of appreciating it as it is.
There are no "Zen-like" mindfulness meditation techniques I can offer you as a quick fix for weight-loss. The daily practice of being mindful of why, when and what you eat and a few simple changes, however, will change your thoughts, ideas, and dependence on food.
The more you practice, the better you'll become. The more mindful you are of your true beauty, how wonderously you are created, and how unique and special you are, the more you will love yourself.
You will want to give yourself good things. You will want to eat good things. The relationship with yourself and others will be your focus and your relationship with food will become a healthy one.
About Cynthia: I am a Certified Holistic Health and Nutritional Counselor. My company is Metamorphosis Consulting and I have been in private practice for over 10 years. I believe we can completely transform our lives by nourishing our bodies, our minds, and our spirits. It is my desire to help others achieve their health and nutritional goals, their personal goals, and to live the life they have always dreamed of. Learn more at www.truemetamorphosis.org and www.cyndaily.com.