I live in Atlantic Canada and right now we are in the midst of yet another snow storm. As a result, weather reporters are urging us to stock up on “Storm Chips.” This phenomenon blew up a year ago when Stephanie Domet, a CBC radio host in Halifax, tapped into the zeitgeist in the Maritimes. Storm coming? Better get my chips!
We are all cozied up indoors, waiting to shovel our way out into the world again. As Domet put it on her Twitter feed, “Self-control is at an all-time low with #stormchips trending. You can’t be blamed.” And it’s true – when we’re stressed, food cravings are hard to resist.
We all have to eat. It is a basic requirement for living. And yet there are few daily activities that take us on such a roller coaster of feelings: delight, satisfaction, joy, pain, distress, guilt and shame, longing and despair.
Something else trending these days is mindful eating. It is getting a lot of positive attention in the world of nutrition and weight control. March is nutrition month, and many dieticians and nutritionists are now promoting a non-diet approach, believing that mindful eating can help people settle down to observe their relationship to food without self-recrimination.
According to the Centre for Mindful Eating, mindful eating is:
• Respecting your own inner wisdom and allowing yourself to become aware of the positive and nurturing choices available through preparing and eating food.
• Choosing to eat food that is pleasing to you and nourishing to your body by using all your senses to explore, taste, and savour.
• Acknowledging responses to food without judgement: likes, neutral, dislikes. Without judgement is key!
• Learning to be aware of physical hunger and fullness/satisfaction cues to help you decide when to begin and when to stop eating.
In our fast-paced world, we are often on autopilot when it comes to food purchases, preparation, and eating. Here are some mindful eating tips:
1. Slow down. Prepare your body and mind for what you are about to eat by taking five deep breaths before you start. Deep breathing calms the body and brings you to the present moment.
2. Try eating for a few minutes in silence. Choose to eat a snack in silence or dedicate five minutes of a meal to be eaten in silence.
3. Put your fork down between bites. Try using your fork with your non-dominant hand, or use chopsticks.
4. Tune in to your senses. Notice the colours on your plate, taste the flavours, and note the changes in texture as you chew. Smell the aromas and listen to what you hear as you eat (yes, food makes many different sounds!). Engaging each of your senses can make for a very pleasurable experience, and you may find you are satisfied with less.
5. Check in with yourself before, midway through, and after your meal or snack. Observe without judgement. On a scale of 1 to 10, am I ravenous (1) or overly stuffed (10)? Aim to stop eating around a 6-7 when you are satisfied, but not full.
6. Be grateful. Give thanks for the ingredients, where they come from, how they got to your table, and the process that transforms them into an enjoyable dish.
Let’s face it, we are human. We are going to have our “storm chip” days. We aren’t going to be mindful of every mouthful, and being hard on ourselves gets us nowhere. Mindful eating is a practice that can be cultivated one breath at a time, one step at a time, and one bite at a time.
Some great resources:
• Mindful Eating: A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food, by Dr. Jan Chozen Bays.
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