Distracted Eating is Diminishing Your Health and Here’s What to Do About it!

We live in a world of distractions. Distracted driving and distracted conversation.  Distracted focus at work, school, or with our families and friends. Our attention is constantly being divided up amongst so many things. We praise ourselves for our ability to multi- task, but at what cost?  Yes, our brains are amazing and are extremely capable of processing a lot of information, but really…in the end we may just be watering down our daily experiences.  In doing so, we’re giving up the richness of being fully present and in the moment. We’re all over the place. Our many devices are a big factor in this distracted world we live in: phones, computers and televisions. This distraction touches every corner of our lives including our sleep, our sex and our food.

We are often aware that these distractions are creating stress in our lives. We long for a little peace, so we take some time to meditate or go to a yoga class but as soon as we get back in the car we turn on our device, search for Google Maps, we scan for the most recent texts, we tune our satellite radio to a song we want to hear….. all of that while driving.
Distraction is so ingrained in us that we often don’t know how to be without it. We actually search out ways to distract ourselves so that we feel better…avoiding feelings or uncomfortable situations.

Learning to live with less distraction is something we all could use. Becoming willing to let go of the peripheral and zero in on the what’s right in front of us could do us all a little good. I’m discovering that this proliferation of distraction could very well be diminishing the quality of our lives and our health.

One place that I’ve recognized this on a huge level is with distracted eating. We use food to distract us when we don’t want to feel, when we are lonely or bored, when we just want to “check out” and let the food take us elsewhere. Even worse, as we eat our food, whether with someone or alone, we allow ourselves to be distracted in the process of really tasting and experiencing our food.  Our mind body connection is severed and there’s less feeling of really being satiated, or tuning in to whether we are hungry or full.

An article in Harvard Health cited a report published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. A team from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom scoured the medical literature for studies that have looked at how attention and memory affect food intake. All of these studies had at least two groups, such as one group that ate a particular meal while watching television and another that ate the same meal without television. These studies point to two key conclusions:

*Being distracted or not paying attention to a meal tended to make people eat more at that meal

*Paying attention to a meal was linked to eating less later on.

The report goes on to say that “If you aren’t mindful of what’s going into your mouth, you don’t process that information. That means it doesn’t get stored in your memory bank. And without a memory of having eaten, you are more likely to eat again sooner than you might have if you ate mindfully.”

Mindfulness in life is the antidote to letting go of these distractions. Through Mindfulness in our daily lives and through developing a practice of Mindful eating, we bestow a great gift upon ourselves.

Distracted eating is a societal problem for us, especially here in the United States. Most other countries honor their mealtimes. Meals are a ritual for many other cultures. They eat together, they eat with peace and joy and gratitude for their food. They eat slowly, with purpose and they eat less. They don’t walk around eating or eat while driving. They don’t snack constantly or eat all day long. Meal times are sacred to other cultures and to us, mealtimes are a way to shove food in, to overindulge, or for some people, to just get it over with. We want food that is fast, food that we can hold in our hands and eat on the run, food that is convenient.

Mindful eating is a beautiful commitment to yourself. The benefits are great. You feel more satiated. You feel fuller and more satisfied on all levels. Mindful eating is the key to a healthy gut, a healthy weight and to a loving and healthy relationship with food.

The practice of Mindful eating is just that…a practice. Just like meditation and yoga, it takes some time, some commitment and baby steps to incorporate into your life. It also begins with mindfully choosing your food when you are at the grocery store and mindfully preparing the food before you eat. Then as you eat, let go of the distractions. Turn off the TV, put away your phone and really experience each and every bite, really chewing, tasting and savoring your food.  Putting attention and energy into this practice will give you a new world of benefits. The way we choose to honor ourselves through food and eating can have a positive impact on our lives and our health and happiness.

I love these words from Thich Nhat Hanh:

“We don’t need a lot to feel nourished. When we are fully there and alive for every morsel of food, we eat in a way that each bite fills us with peace and happiness. When we eat mindfully, we consume exactly what we need in order to keep our bodies, our minds and the Earth healthy. When we practice like this, we reduce suffering for ourselves and for others. We begin to heal ourselves and can help heal the world.”

Yes, life is filled with distractions. We can’t escape it all. We CAN choose to have boundaries when it comes to taking care of ourselves. Through Mindfulness and Mindful eating, we establish a routine that puts us first and allows some peace, harmony and healing. As someone who has struggled with my own eating, I’ve found a lot of my own peace and many benefits from mindful eating and feel grateful to share some ideas with all of you. Here are some easy tips to help you:

*Keep your cooking space clear, organized and uncluttered

*Enjoy the process of preparing your food

*Stop and breathe for a moment before you eat

*Set an intention to remind yourself to eat mindfully before each and every meal

*Sit at a table rather than on the couch or at your desk

*Look at your food—noticing what’s on your plate

*Appreciate the variety, the aroma, and the healthy ingredients you’ve included to nourish yourself

*Eat slowly, taking small bites and chew, chew, chew your food well

*Really taste and experience each bite

*Eat slowly and allow time to feel full and satisfied.

Want to explore your own path to Mindful eating? Call me for a free first session!  805-889-0707