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May 02

Mindful Eating

Adult Woman Eating A Healthy SaladAt first hearing, the idea of “mindful eating” may seem a little odd. However, this concept is gaining support from dieticians, nutritionists, physicians, and psychologists. This is especially true for doctors who practice in bariatric clinics and for surgeons who perform bariatric surgery (weight-loss surgery). Laparoscopic surgery techniques have made procedures, like the gastric sleeve and the gastric bypass, far more practical for tens of thousands of patients. Still, these surgical wonders will go for naught if the patient does not reform his or her dietary habits and adopt a program of mindful eating.

The best way to understand mindful eating might be to think about its contrasting opposite: mindless eating. Unfortunately, mindless eating is all too common today. This is due in part to the nature of modern life and in part to the marketing efforts of food and beverage makers. For most of history, the main nutrition-related problem faced by humans was simply getting enough food. A man or woman living in primitive conditions would have to hunt, gather and scavenge all day to get 1000 to 1500 calories of edible material. Today, you can easily get that in a fast-food drive-through without getting out of your car. There is a mismatch between the easy availability of high-calorie food and the human body which was designed to operate well on a much lower calorie intake.

Food marketers have contributed to this problem by intentionally producing products that appeal to the natural appetite for salt, fat, and sugar. It is not an accident that, ‘no one can eat just one potato chip.’ Potato chips are designed to satisfy our natural craving for those dietary elements that were once hard to get. As a result, it is easy to consume them without thinking, even when we are not really hungry. There is a natural tendency to get as much nutrition as possible when it is available, to eat mindlessly because the opportunity may not come again for a long time.

The basic idea behind mindful eating is to overcome this reflex. Mindful eating requires a person to think about what they are eating and why they are eating it. Mindfulness recognizes the power of real, physical hunger and the need to satisfy this requirement, but it also recognizes that physical hunger is not the only thing that triggers eating. The trick is to respond to natural hunger by eating appropriate amounts and types of food and to avoid the other factors that cause us to eat.

Mindful eating requires you to think about and plan your eating, just as you would plan a work schedule or vacation trip. It also asks that you avoid or overcome the social and emotional situations that lead to consuming food when you are not physically hungry. Unfortunately, most people devote very little thought to what, why, and when they eat.
Advice on this subject is easy to find. By ‘Googling’ the term, “mindful eating plan” you will get guidance from medical schools, practitioners of yoga, the NIH (National Institutes of Health), vegetarian organizations and numerous other sources. The Harvard Medical School makes this modest statement –

“A small yet growing body of research suggests that a slower, more thoughtful way of eating could help with weight problems and maybe steer some people away from processed food and other less-healthful choices.”

Mindfulness involves becoming aware of what is going on around you and inside your own mind. When applied to eating, mindfulness suggests these things:

  • Eliminate distractions when you are eating. Do not eat while watching TV, listening to radio, reading or (importantly) while driving.
  • Think about the qualities of what you are eating – notice its color, texture, smell and taste.
  • Slow down! Give your stomach time to inform your brain that you have eaten enough. It takes about 20 minutes for the feedback mechanism between stomach and brain to say, “That’s enough.” If you eat very rapidly, you over consume before even knowing it.
  • Stop! Before eating anything, ask yourself why you are doing this. If this is a response to stress or a social situation, find another way to deal with it. Mindfulness techniques have been advocated as a means of overcoming stress, as well as changing eating habits.
  • Plan! Modern society has made it easy to quickly obtain and consume food, often food that is high-calorie and high-fat. Plan ahead for an alternative such as having an apple or some other healthy snack with you.

Practical steps to encourage mindful eating might include measures like:

  • Using a kitchen timer when eating. It should take you 20 minutes or more to consume an average sized meal.
  • Give chopsticks a try. If you can master eating with chopsticks, it will impress your friends and slow you down.
  • Try eating with your other hand. For most people, this will mean using the left hand while eating. Again this will slow you down.
  • Consume a full glass of water or some other drink during each meal. It may help you feel full sooner, aid in digestion and slow your pace while eating.

As mentioned above, laparoscopic surgery techniques have made procedures like the gastric sleeve and the gastric bypass far more practical for many people. Bariatric clinics and centers like the Florida Hospital Center for Obesity Medicine and Surgery can offer professional counseling, and help for patients. For some individuals, surgical procedures like the gastric sleeve or the gastric bypass may be indicated. However, these highly effective treatments must be accompanied by patient commitment to mindful, healthy eating.

Patients who seek out a bariatric clinic should find a wide range of medical, surgical, nutritional, diet, and other services available. Our office offers help with exercise and healthy lifestyle choices including mindful eating. The clinic staff includes a bariatric case coordinator, a bariatric physician assistant and a bariatric office manager who handles insurance and other clerical tasks. Diet, exercise, and appropriate weight-loss surgery can combine to help medically obese patients lose weight and keep it off for the long term. The gastric sleeve and gastric bypass surgery procedures are two of the most effective tools for achieving a significant, long term weight-loss goal.

If our clinic can be of assistance in any way, please contact us at (386) 231-3530. Our offices, located in Daytona, New Smyrna, and Palm coast are all part of the Florida Hospital network.

1 comment

  1. James M. Dorn, Jr.

    Just finished 3 months of this, it was a major problems for me.

    The cause is much more difficult to determine, however, I am into 2 months of working with the cause or causes.

    I would never have gotten this far along if it was not for your dedication and Bev Rassi.

    I have a short paper that I am writing about the Cause, sadly this was passed over for so many years.

    My cause started when I was 15, but did not show it’s evil physiology until I was 27. I was not until about 4 months ago that all the diagnostic info and real life events came together. I must say, I will not probably live long enough to see the real results but hopefully others will.

    My best to you, Jimmy

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