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 like you.
"Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: On purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally." ~Jon Kabat-Zinn
Mindfulness is being aware, living in the present moment, observing where you are and what you are doing, and not allowing anything else to fill your mind from the past or in the future.
So mindfulness is simply the moment-by-moment awareness of life.
This is sometimes difficult to do because we get caught up in our own thoughts and self-talk. Life just passes by and we are not even aware of it.
This is also very true of our eating. We eat meal after meal, snack after snack, barely aware of when and why we are eating, what we're eating and how much we're actually consuming. This is mindless eating and we are all guilty of it.
I remember one particular incident of mindless eating. My sister was going through a very difficult time and we were talking on the telephone. As we chatted, I took a pint of ice cream from the freezer, grabbed a spoon and dug in. An hour later, when I hung up the phone, I realized I had eaten the entire pint of ice cream!
I was so absorbed in our conversation that I absentmindedly kept eating one spoonful of ice cream after another until the container was completely empty!
You could be overweight simply because you are not paying attention.
The very first lesson I teach my clients is mindful eating. I want them to be aware of when, why and what they are eating. If they can come to terms with this and understand why they are choosing a particular food over another, perhaps they can change their relationship with food forever.
How do you eat mindfully? First, you need to understand your relationship with food by asking the following questions.
Why are you eating?
You are hungry! That makes sense. You SHOULD eat when you are hungry. If your stomach is growling or you feel weak and fatigued, you need to eat something.
Starvation and deprivation will only complicate your weight-loss efforts, not help them. Listen to your body. If it is shouting, "Feed me!" then give it something to eat. The same way your car needs gas, your body needs fuel.
There are times, however, that you eat when you are not hungry. Before you bite into that donut or butter your third piece of bread at dinner, STOP and ask, "Why am I eating?" You ate a healthy breakfast but an hour later can't resist the donuts at your weekly staff meeting.
You are not really hungry so why are you doing this? Are you nervous because you must give your weekly report and hate speaking in front of others? You are pacifying your nervousness with food. Is there something else you can do to overcome your nervousness without sabotaging your diet?
Identifying the triggers that cause you to eat when you are not hungry is the first step in eating mindfully.
When are you eating?
Mindless eating can be a dangerous habit, especially if you are trying to maintain or lose weight. You can break this habit by simply changing your routine or by shifting your focus to something else.
When you settle down for the night to watch TV, do you immediately reach for snacks like chips, popcorn or cookies? Take your focus off the food and do something with your hands. Surf the internet as you watch TV, take up knitting or crocheting, work on a project, or put a puzzle together.
Pour yourself a nice cold drink or a cup of hot tea and sip it slowly until the feeling passes. Do you eat when you are bored? Get up and do something. Take a walk, exercise, soak in a hot tub, or visit a friend.
Pay attention to the times you reach for food. Try to be aware of what you are feeling or thinking at that moment and then start taking the steps to address the issues and heal them.
What are you eating?
You know which foods will sabotage your diet and which will not. So why do you ignore the fruit basket and reach for that bag of chips or container of ice cream? Why do you push aside the bowl of fresh steamed vegetables and help yourself to a second serving of mashed potatoes?
You will cook up a box of macaroni and cheese for dinner, but won't spend a few extra minutes grilling some fish. You just can't resist pre-packaged processed foods, nachos smothered in melted cheese, or rich and chocolatey desserts.
As a result, your clothes don't fit, and you are more frustrated than ever! NO... you are not lazy, weak, or destined to be fat the rest of your life.
There is a whole philosophy behind the foods we crave. Certain foods provide instant gratification.
Creamy, buttery mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and ice cream are comfort foods. We feel nurtured when we eat them.
Did you know eating chocolate releases the same "feel good" endorphins as being in love? Show me a person hopelessly addicted to chocolate and I will ask about their love life (or lack of one)!
It is so much easier to reach for certain foods to satisfy our cravings for love, affection, and comfort. Food never rejects our advances or outwardly hurts us.
Think I am crazy? Put my theory to the test.
The next time you crave chocolate, kiss you sweetie passionately, hug your children, or run around the yard with your pet and see if the craving doesn't diminish or completely disappear.
This does not mean you can't occasionally enjoy chocolate, mashed potatoes or ice cream. They are not necessarily bad, but if you are always choosing those types of foods over healthy, more nutritious alternatives, there is most likely a reason.
Be mindful of those times, ask yourself if there is something else you really want or need, and then GO GET IT!
Once you understand your relationship with food, you can begin to take steps to heal it. Mindful eating takes time, dedication, and patience.
Next week I will go into details about the daily practice of eating mindfully so you can win your battle with food once and for all.
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.