Is this your day? Overslept for 9 AM class; jumped out of bed, threw on some clothes, brushed teeth and ran out the door to class. Sat in class until 10:18 and ran to next class at 10:30. Had a break from 1:00 until 1:30. Grabbed lunch to go at Market Place. Wanted to get the salad but had to take it to class so picked the Tuna melt, bag of chips and a diet pop (tuna is healthy, right!). Ate lunch in class, which ended at 2:30. Ran home to change- had to be at work at Buffalo Wild Wings by 5PM. Worked from 5 until 11:00PM. At work, scarfed down some wings and fries and sipped on diet coke throughout the night. Got home at 11:30, exhausted and starving and too hyped up to go to bed. Relaxed on the couch with laptop (Facebook, emails). Scoured the refrigerator and found a yogurt. Ate that first since it’s healthy and you’re trying to lose some of the 20 pounds you have gained in the past year. Spied the leftover pasta from Noodles and Co. and finished it off while watching the episode of Lost you had taped but it’s OK since you haven’t eaten much all day. Went to bed at 2AM.
This type of routine is not an untypical schedule for many OSU students. We have become the “Masters of Multi-tasking”, because there is always too much to do. Unfortunately, this does not always serve us well when it comes to our relationship with food. Often we are not “in the moment” with our food (or with many other things as well). This lack of mindfulness prevents us from being aware of our body’s natural signals for hunger and fullness. It is important to realize that we all came into world normal, intuitive eaters. Babies are experts at eating; they cry when they’re hungry and they stop eating when they’re full. They eat exactly what they need to grow and be healthy. They do not count carbs, protein, fat or calories. They just eat!
Our body’s natural systems would continue to manage our eating and meet our body’s needs if modern society did not mess with them. Arbitrary schedules are set up that interfere with intuitive eating and we are constantly bombarded with external versus internal food cues. No wonder we “mess up.”
So what is “Mindful Eating” and how can you re-learn this healthy approach to eating? Mindfulness is deliberately paying attention to how, what, where and when you eat in a non-judgmental way. It is using all of your senses – seeing, hearing, tasting and feeling – when you eat. I call it “yoga with food” – it requires eating without distractions (no TV, Computer, work, studying) in a calm environment, and it requires practice.
Here are some guidelines to help you implement mindful eating in your life and some web sites with good information that will start you on the path to more natural, intuitive eating.
- Make eating consistently a priority and give yourself permission to eat. Eat breakfast within 30 minutes of waking and pay attention to hunger cues-usually about every four hours.
- Keep a food intake diary for a week noting what, where, and when you eat and how you feel when eating.
- Eat sitting down without distractions, preferably in a calm environment.
- Turn off the television, computer, or other distracting electronic devices. Music is fine.
- Eat at a table if possible-not on the couch, easy chair, car or bed.
- Try not to work or study while eating
- Slow down! Practice putting down your fork or sandwich between bites. Time a typical meal and add 5 minutes the next time you eat. Enjoy the texture and flavor of the food. Pay attention to your body’s signal of fullness or satiety.
- Eat when you feel comfortably hungry (not starved) and stop when you are comfortably full (not stuffed).
- Be aware of emotional triggers for eating-a “craving” is often the result of emotional need.
Remember, food is not the enemy! There is no such thing as perfect eating, but eating mindfully will make it more pleasurable and satisfying.
If you would like to discuss mindful eating, or any other nutritional questions you may have, call to make an appointment with the Student Health Center’s Registered Dieticians.
John A. Vaughn, MD
Student Health Services
The Ohio State University