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Photo courtesy of Kirsten Firminger

In a new research article being published in this month’s Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Dr. Alan Kristal and colleagues found that people who eat mindfully (defined as those were aware of why they ate and stopped eating when full) are less likely to be obese.

The actual article describes the process of developing and validating a way to measure mindful eating. I find it interesting because it can be used as a guide to examine my own eating habits.

Kristal and colleagues ended up with 5 factors, or categories, of behaviors that were thought to comprise mindful eating. They were:

  • Disinhibition – this involves noticing when you are full and how much you eat. Negative examples would be agreeing to the following statements: “If there’s good food at a party, I’ll continue eating even after I’m full.” or “When I’m at a restaurant, I can tell when the portion I’ve been served is too large for me.”

  • Awareness – paying attention and appreciating the food you are eating. For instances, agreeing with the statement that “I taste every bite of food that I eat.” or “I notice when foods and drinks are too sweet.”

  • External cues – being aware of how situations trigger cravings or influence you to eat more. The researchers measured this based on peoples agreement with statements such as “I notice when just going into a movie theater makes me want to eat candy or popcorn.” or “I recognize when food advertisements make me want to eat.”

  • Emotional responses – do you eat for emotional reasons? would you say that “When I’m sad I eat to feel better.” or “When I’m feeling stressed at work I’ll go find something to eat.”

  • Distraction – this last category is another indicator of how much you pay attention to the eating process. For example, how much would you agree that “I think about things I need to do while I am eating.” or “I eat so quickly that I don’t taste what I’m eating.”

Some of the ideas I take away from this are means to reconnect with my body and my food during the eating process, including:

  • Eat enough but not more – Learn how much food I need to
    eat in order to be satiated or satisfied, but not so much as to be
    full. Be aware of what being full feels like and do not eat beyond that

  • Love my food – Look at it, smell it, savor it. Enjoy every moment of eating it and take my time.

  • Don’t be seduced
    – Be aware that I can be influenced by things such as advertisements,
    being at a party, or being at a restaurants.  Take the time to notice
    if I am truly hungry or just being triggered to crave food because of
    my circumstances.

  • Don’t feed the feelings
    – Don’t just eat because of how I feel. Eating a candy bar will not
    make my stress go away. Moods are impermanent and will pass. Just be

  • Just eat – Focus on eating when I am eating. Clear my mind and be present with my food.
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