As the city reopens and we return to the “new normal”, many people are experiencing the effects of disruption to our usual routines. This impacts our healthy eating, movement and sleep. The pandemic has been a perfect set up for many to gain weight during their time at home —sometimes referred to as the "Quarantine 15." If you have emerged from your home with a few extra pounds, don’t despair. We have a few suggestions to help you get your health goals back on track.
While imposing strict restrictions on your food intake may seem like the way to shed those additional pounds, chances are this will backfire and potentially set you up for more weight gain. In this 3-part blog series, we will highlight some strategies you can use instead. First, let’s explore mindful eating.
Mindfulness asks us to be aware of what is happening in the moment and to tune in to our body mentally, emotionally and physically. The act of mindfulness promotes balance, knowledge and choice. It can be applied to any activity, at any time, simply by bringing the mind to focus on what’s happening in the present moment and noticing the mind’s usual “commentary."
For example, one can be mindful of the sensations in their feet when walking, notice the feeling of soapy water while doing the dishes, or the unique taste and texture of a blueberry while chewing.
The power of mindful eating and its approach might be a useful weight management tool that can help you better achieve your health goals. It’s based on the notion that your body has an inner intelligence. It “knows” what you need to be healthy. For instance, it knows how and when you should eat. All you need to do is learn how to pay attention. Mindful eating can help create a long-lasting approach to nourishing your body. Here’s how to get started:
Acknowledge. There is no right or wrong way to eat. Accept that each person has different needs, likes, dislikes, and access to foods that are unique to them. Don’t compare your needs to others.
Tune in. Before you eat, ask yourself this question: “Am I hungry, stressed, bored, or experiencing something else?” If it has been a few hours since you’ve last eaten, have a healthy meal or snack. If the answer is no, ask yourself: “Why am I eating or what do I need in this moment?”
Feel your hunger and fullness. Learn how to tune into your hunger and fullness. Using a hunger and fullness scale can help you ensure that you are never too hungry (1 on the scale) or eating past the point of fullness (10 on the scale).
If you are new to this, it may take some practice. Be patient with yourself. A key to using a hunger and fullness scale is to eat slowly and check in often to see how you are feeling at the different stages of your meal. The slow pace allows your body a chance to signal fullness to your brain before you overshoot it (between 20-30 minutes). Aim to stay within the 3-7 range on the scale. Start eating when you are physically hungry, (around a 3 or 4 on the scale) and aim to finish when you feel full but not uncomfortable (around a 6 or a 7). Getting too low on the scale can lead to overeating.
Plate your food and sit to eat. Rather than grazing, put your food on a plate or in a bowl. This allows you to visualize and engage with what you are eating in a more meaningful way. Do this for both meals and snacks. Sit to eat. Eating on the run often means we are not able to pay attention to our body’s cues, making it harder to recognize your fullness.
Engage your senses and remove distractions. Use all your senses when you eat—smell, taste, texture, sight, and sound. This will help you be aware of every bite you take and how you are moving through the hunger and fullness scale. Remove any distractions and avoid multitasking during meals and snacks. Put away your phone and computer, turn off the TV, and tune in to the experience.
By becoming aware of what you’re eating and how it makes you feel, you allow yourself to better enjoy the act of eating. You can also better assess hunger/fullness, and satisfaction from meals or snacks. Be patient with yourself; any new skill takes practice and perseverance. In using mindful eating as a tool to better nourish your body and mind, you can move through your journey towards better mental and physical health.
If you want to learn more about how to put this into practice, please schedule an appointment with one of ACPNY’s Registered Dietitian-Nutritionists.