Let’s Enjoy Food by Being Mindful Eaters

Let’s enjoy eating. Many people don’t eat for enjoyment or nourishment. They eat because they’re nervous or bored or frustrated or because at 3:30 p.m., it’s just second nature to take a break and have a candy bar. Or they eat because they feel they have to. Let’s be a mindful eater. Don’t focus just on the right foods but also on the right reason to eat for nourishment, health, social ritual, and of course, enjoyment. Let’s just break all the bad food habits and enjoy eating.

Figure out your stress eating triggers. Overeating is due to emotions. Do you eat when you’re angry? Bored? Lonely? At a party when you’re feeling nervous? Pay attention to the situations that prompt you to reach for extra helpings or snacks. Identifying your overeating triggers is the first step in fixing emotional eating problems.

Fix emotional eating. Once you’ve discovered which emotions are behind your eating habits, you can fix the situation. If you’re feeling angry, you can try putting on some music and dancing. Worried? Turn off the news and read a joke book or turn on a comedy station. Do you feel sad? Read some­thing inspirational, meditate or pray, or call a friend. Do you feel lonely? Call or write to a friend or take a walk to a place where there are people, such as the library just is mindful that food can’t soothe or solve your troubles: at best, it will mask them for a short time. That’s not a benefit at all.

Chat more, eat less. Never stand by the chips and mindlessly eat while you talk with other guests at a party. Instead of letting conversation lead you into mindless eating, let socializing be the centerpiece of your experience by staying far from the buffet. When you arrive at a picnic or backyard barbecue, grab a low calorie drink and scope out a great seat at a table filled with friends, family or friendly strangers. This is your home base. Then approach the buffet table or grill with a purpose: Grab a plate, add carefully chosen foods, and carry it back to your spot at the center of the real fun.

Write in your journal. Paying attention to your feelings by writing them down is a powerful way to make yourself feel valued and feel better without resorting to sour cream and onion chips. Keep a feelings journal and pay attention to situations that lead to overeating. That way, you’ll learn how to spot dangerous situations sooner and take preventive steps.

Have more fun. When life is busy and you’re to do list is long, it’s easy to turn to food as quick entertainment and solace. In fact, you may be missing out on other healthy pleasures that would be more satisfying. When was the last time you enjoyed your favorite activities, such as going to concerts or dog shows, gardening or museum hopping, roller-skating or antiquing? Make time for fun, and you may find you don’t need that “fun pack” of cookies after all.

Tune in to your true hunger level. Before you take a bite, stop and rate your hunger on a scale of 1 to 10 with 1 meaning famished and 10 being totally stuffed, the way you’d feel after a big Thanksgiving dinner. The time to eat is when you’re at about 3.The time to stop eating? When you’re at 5 to 7 feeling comfortably satisfied but not overly full. If you’re reaching for food when you’re, not at 3, pull back and remind your­self that it will be snack time, or mealtime, soon.

Get moving! Physical activity cuts stress and pumps feel-good endorphins throughout your body while burning calories. Make a new com­mitment to getting a half hour of activity most days of the week. Great options include walk­ing, exercising to aerobics videos and DVDs, taking a class or doing strength training at a gym, or simply choosing active fun like hiking, howling, swimming or skating.

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