I’ve been practicing intermittent fasting for a long time. It is what my body naturally wants. I am not a mindful eater. I try to practice mindfulness in other aspects of my life, but when it comes to eating, I eat quickly and hurriedly.
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting has gained a lot of attention lately. It is the practice of limiting your hours of eating leaving your body an extended period of time to digest and cleanse. I eat during the hours of 11:00 am and 7:00 pm. I try to make wise choices during this time. I typically plan what I will eat for the day in the morning. Sometimes I deviate from this plan. Sometimes I binge, but I start over.
Restricting your eating schedule does not mean that you eat large amounts during the eating period. You eat like you would normally. Just narrowing the window of time for eating keeps your weight consistent. Reduction of calories naturally occurs.
I found that eating after 7:00 pm was what cause my few extra pounds of weight gain and interrupted my sleep. I do not sleep well when my digestive system is working. I also don’t sleep well if I am starving. I have found the best scenario is making lunch my main meal and a light dinner.
Even though I practice intermittent fasting, there are times I slip up, or I feel I eat too much because I am not being mindful. I rush through meals in order to get on to the next thing I need to get done that day. Just like many busy people, I even eat on the go
What is mindful eating?
Mindfulness has become a common word now. Just like karma, it is not always used appropriately, but I think it reflects a general desire to be more present in the current moment. As Ram Dass famously said, “[amazon_link id=”0517543052″ target=”_blank” ]Be Here Now[/amazon_link].”
In mindfulness practice, we are aware of thoughts and feelings that arise, but we do not judge them. We try to be with them before taking any action. Just pausing to be present with what is happening right now, rather than thinking about how it relates to the past or to the future, allows us change what may not be serving us.
Sharon Salzberg wrote in [amazon_link id=”B004IARYIY” target=”_blank” ]Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation[/amazon_link]:
“It is never too late to turn on the light. Your ability to break an unhealthy habit or turn off an old tape doesn’t depend on how long it has been running; a shift in perspective doesn’t depend on how long you’ve held on to the old view.
When you flip the switch in that attic, it doesn’t matter whether its been dark for ten minutes, ten years or ten decades.
The light still illuminates the room and banishes the murkiness, letting you see the things you couldn’t see before.
Its never too late to take a moment to look.”
How does this relate to eating? Almost everyone has some unhealthy habit when it comes to eating. If we want to change that habit, or at least reduce its frequency, mindfulness can help
The Center for Mindful Eating defines mindful eating as:
Mindful Eating is allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing opportunities that are available through food selection and preparation by respecting your own inner wisdom. By using all your senses in choosing to eat food that is both satisfying to you and nourishing to your body, acknowledging your responses to food (likes, dislikes or neutral) without judgment, and becoming aware of physical hunger and satiety cues to guide your decisions to begin and end eating you can change your relationship to food.
Sharon Salzberg following example:
To understand mindfulness, imagine yourself doing something very simple, something that doesn’t arouse a compelling interest–like, say, eating an apple. You probably eat your apple not paying attention to how it smells, how it tastes, or how it feels in your hand. Because of the ways we’re conditioned, we don’t usually notice the quality of our attention. Done this way, eating the apple is not a fulfilling experience
So you blame the apple. You might think, if only I had a banana, I’d be happy. So you get a banana, but eat it the same way, and still there’s not a lot of fulfillment. And then you think, if only I had a mango–and go to great expense and some difficulty getting a mango. But it’s the same thing all over again. We don’t pay attention to what we have or what we’re doing. As a result, we seek more and more intensity of stimulation to try to rectify what seems unfulfilling.
In my own practice of mindful eating, which is only a few weeks old, I am reminding myself to slow down. To finish chewing and swallowing before taking another bite. To follow the food down my esophagus to my stomach before moving onto the the next bite. To place my fork down between bites.
When I remember to eat more mindfully, what I notice is I eat less. I give my stomach time to send messages to my brain that I am full.
I feel less self-judgement when I practice eating slower. It is ok to eat those sweets when each bite is savored and noticed, rather than scarfed down. It also ends the cycle of sweet then salty then sweet then salty that can happen when I binge.
Mindful eating is also about making choices. When I examine the urge to eat mindfully to see if am I truly hungry or is the desire to eat really coming from a habit, I discover I often eat out of boredom, to give myself a break, or when I am tired. When I acknowledge the present moment, I can make a different choice to fulfill those needs.
I often tend to multitask when I eat. I eat looking at the mail. I eat on the computer. I eat driving the car. I eat on a walk. Rarely do I just sit down and eat.
It’s important to be aware of how multitasking can stimulate us into mindlessness, giving the illusion of productivity while stealing our focus and harming performance. “When you are walking, walk. When you are sitting, sit,” is ancient wisdom.
― Sharon Salzberg, [amazon_link id=”0761168990″ target=”_blank” ]Real Happiness at Work: Meditations for Accomplishment, Achievement, and Peace[/amazon_link]
Other choices mindful eating has given me is in what I eat. When paying careful attention to the present moment, I am more likely to chose something that will honestly serve my body well. Or if I choose something less than healthy, I know it was a conscious choice and not just an uncontrolled binge and feel less judgement.
The practices of intermittent fasting and mindful eating are very powerful for your health and well-being. The added bonus is weight loss or proper weight management. These should not be the ultimate goal, but certainly are a lifelong benefit.
“Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.”
― Sharon Salzberg, [amazon_link id=”B00N4E8SGM” target=”_blank” ]Real Happiness: The Power of Meditation[/amazon_link]
This is where I am at with mindful eating.
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