Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Eating Mindfully

I've found that that I am not very good at paying attention to my food.  I noticed this while working in Georgia.  Instead of actually taking a lunch break, I would grab my salad or sandwich and eat at my desk, just working away.  I thought this made me a better employee.  These days I work on my masters class while eating breakfast.  I sit at the table with Ryan, completely ignoring him, chowing on my eggs and writing my discussion board posts.  While at work, I still eat at my desk between clients, answering e-mails or doing research, mindlessly chomping on salads or stuffing meatballs in my mouth.  And lately, since Ryan has been working in DC during the week, I come home and eat supper or a snack in front of the TV.  This has to stop!  I eat and barely realize it.  People criticize teens (and adults) for eating snack foods while playing video games or watching TV... eating balanced meals in front of electronics or in the car isn't much better.

So for the past couple weeks, I've made a conscious effort to close my lap top and move away from my work computer during meal time.  Some days are more successful than others.  However, I'm finding that when I do shun my electronics (which now includes an iphone), meals have become more satisfying.  Instead of mindlessly chewing and not actually tasting my food, I've discovered a few interesting preferences.  Examples: As much as I try to enjoy kale in my eggs, I don't like it as much as spinach. Sauteed kale gets chewy.  And Paleo bread isn't very good for dunking in my coffee, it doesn't toast well either.  It finally dawned on me that I seriously don't care about rice.  It's not that I don't like it, I just don't see any point in making it for myself, it's just bland and starchy.  I've also found that I really like sugar snap peas dipped in mayo, but I also really really really like them sauteed in butter.

Some people will say that when eating we need to be completely present and only think about the meal.  I'm not to that point, and it's not a goal of mine either.  My mind tends to wander, meal time is definitely not a meditative experience for me.  But powering down makes it easier for me to feel satisfied after meals.  Of course, I have not been 100% perfect with this change, last week I had a final project due for class and ate breakfast while proof-reading my paper.  This morning I really wanted to watch the news since I've been feeling out of the loop; so that was on while I ate breakfast.  Yesterday was much more successful.  I ate breakfast with mom (then drove to Minnesota) and even though both lunch and supper were eaten at work, I pushed away from my computer and chatted with Shirley at the front desk in our office.

The question I have not yet answered is this; is there any benefit to eating more mindfully?  Or at least not eating in front of an electronic device?  A quick search on pubmed reveals that yes, mindfulness matters.
1. It helps people lose weight, and control binge eating behavior.
2. It lowers stress levels and CRP.
3. It prevents weight gain.
4. Mindful eating decreases serving sizes, helping people eat less.
5. While not exactly mindful, family meal times have also been shown to be beneficial.

So this week I challenge you to close your lap top, push away from your desk, turn off the TV, silence your phone and just eat.  Chew your food instead of inhaling it.   Eat at a table, not in the car and not at your desk.  Chat with your coworker in the office break room, have a conversation instead of texting at the restaurant.  Listen to the radio if you eat alone, or eat outside if the weather is nice.  Whatever you do, get away from the screens.

My mindful meals for the rest of the day include:
Lunch-Big salad with leftover grilled chicken from Sunday's supper.
Snack-Core Support mixed with coconut milk
Supper-Trader Joes chicken sausage with roasted yellow pepper/mushrooms/carrot and olives.
Snack if I need it-almond butter on a spoon.