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Integrated Diabetes Services

Mindful or Mindless Eating?

JENNY'S journal

Mindful eating is not a specific diet with foods or a meal plan included.  It is not about giving any one type of food up at all. Think of it as experiencing the pleasure of the food you are eating.  Letting every taste bud in your mouth enjoy the food you choose to eat.

Yes, I said the food you CHOOSE to eat.  So often with diabetes we are scolded for what food does to our BG levels and we learn to view food as “good” or “bad”.  How should we look at food? Simply put, food is fuel for your body, in any form you choose to eat.  Now, that isn’t to say some foods have more or less nutritional value than others, or that you should live on Snickers bars or Pork rinds!  You can choose to eat more mindfully though – and with this you may find a sense of pleasure in what you eat, rather than just wolfing down your next meal. You might find you enjoy food a lot more. Or you might decide, halfway through, that your body has had enough.

This time of the year – (from Halloween in fall through Easter or Passover in spring) it’s hard to be mindful of what we eat.  Food surrounds us at work, in stores, at family and friend gatherings, etc.  If we focus our energy on what it is we want out of the food we may in fact enjoy it more and not experience the guilt associated with eating “bad” foods.

The past few years have given us a good number of books, blogs and videos about conscious eating.  At the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University, Brian Wansink, the author of “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think”, has conducted scores of experiments on the psychological factors that lead to our bottomless indulging.  You may find some helpful hints by reading it, if you struggle to understand your eating habits.

With the annual holidays of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, and Easter/Passover coming, it is worth considering whether mindful eating is something that may help us stay healthier long term. An internal look at discipline may help teach us how to get healthy, relieve stress and get rid of many of the negative thoughts that we’ve come to associate with food in relation to our diabetes management. We need to come back to saying: ‘Does my body need this? Why am I eating this? Is it just because I’m sad and stressed out or because I really want to eat this?’ ”

Most people have a general sense of what the healthy foods are, but they’re not eating them as regularly as needed. What’s on your mind when you’re eating – is it nourishing your body or have you just chosen something without thought because you “need to eat” or because everyone else is grabbing that doughnut at the meeting?  Mindful eating is making the choice about food more conscious. Become aware of what you are eating and it may improve your diabetes management as well!

To get you started with really enjoying the food you choose to eat daily consider the following:

FOCUS ON THE FOOD YOU ARE EATING. Do not sit in front of the computer or TV. Try to sit away from distraction and really focus on the food. Enjoy the flavor, the color and what you might be giving to your body for overall health…and BG effect!

SET ASIDE TWO MEALS PER WEEK. In today’s busy world it’s hard to get out of your cubicle to enjoy a meal. But, try to set aside two sit-down meals a week as an experiment in mindfulness. Evaluate if this also leads to less stress, more precise evaluation and improved post meal BG levels.

COOK YOUR OWN FOOD. When you prepare the food you eat it can help reconnect you with enjoying that food when you sit down to eat it.  Try to grow some herbs in a sunny window, or if you live where climate permits year round, grow some of your own veggies to use.

MAKE A GROCERY LIST/MENU WEEKLY. Everyone has food they eat regularly. We all have about 20-25 foods that show up on our plate throughout the course of a normal week. Make a grocery list of at least these foods, keep it on your fridge and check the food when you need to make a grocery trip. Plan some meals that are easy to prepare and could be frozen as leftovers for when life gets busy. Look for recipes with 5 ingredients or less for ease of prep and to keep it simple.

CHEW SLOWLY. It isn’t easy, but try to slow down, aiming for 25 to 30 chews for each mouthful.

MAKE YOUR PLATE COLORFUL. Get back to the basics of a healthy balanced plate. Aim for ½ of your plate to be vegetables of several colors (cooked, steamed, raw or salad form), ¼ of your plate protein (animal or plant based) and ¼ of your plate a healthy low glycemic carb source like quinoa or Butternut squash or berries of any kind.

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