By Laura Daehnke - Guest Blogger
You wake with a start, realizing that you’ve somehow slept through your alarm and now have 15 minutes to get to class. You get up, get dressed, brush your teeth and find the closest food item you can find (which happens to be a half-eaten pop tart) and you run out the door- munching as you speed walk to campus. Later in the day, you realize that during your morning rush you forgot to pack a lunch for yourself, so you find the nearest Subway and grab a sandwich to eat while you study in the library. It’s possible that as a student this may sound like a typical day to you, but there is a key to healthy eating habits that is missing in this scenario- mindfulness. One of the frontrunners in the mindful eating movement, Jean Kristeller, PhD, created a program called Mindful-Based Eating Awareness Training. This training program, which encourages participants to examine their surrounds, the food they are about to consume and reflect on their personal physical and mental state before eating, has been shown in studies to aid in weight loss, reduction of binge eating and reduce stress eating. These principles can be applied to the student lifestyle with 5 easy steps:
Ask Why: The first step is to determine why you feel like eating. Observe your hunger levels and decide whether you are physically hungry, bored, stressed or having cravings due to appetite. If you are anything besides physically hungry take a moment to identify those feelings and make a decision as to whether or not to proceed.
Ask What: The next step is to reflect on what food you have selected to consume. Take a moment to consider what type of nutritional value your food has and about how it will nourish your body, then determine if it is in fact what your body needs at the moment. This is not to say that you can’t at times opt for a red velvet cupcake, but it’s good to think about in order to help you find a healthy balance for the remainder of your day.
Ask Where: Next, you will want to consider where you are when you are eating. Are you in your dorm, in the library, at a friend’s house, at a restaurant? These factors can affect the way you eat, how much you know about your food, how much you eat and how much attention you are paying to your portions.
Ask When: Considering when you eat is the next step in mindful eating. This not only helps you identify eating patterns and your response to hunger cues throughout your day, it can also help you make sure that you’re prepared with healthy options when hunger strikes.
Ask How: Finally, you will want to contemplate how you are eating. This can include your body positioning, pace, whether you are eating alone or sharing food, how distracted you are and how much you chew your food. Studies have shown that these factors can have an effect on the number of calories consumed during a meal.
Moving through these 5 steps to mindful eating is a great way to begin your journey towards listening to hunger cues, realigning your intentions with your decisions about food and building a better relationship with your body.
Andrade, A., Green, G., & Melanson, K. (2008). Eating Slowly Led to Decrease in Energy Intake within Meals in Healthy Women. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, Vol. 108, Issue 7, p1186.
Harris, C. (2013, March). Mindful Eating-Studies Show This Concept Can Help Clients Lose Weight and Better Manage Chronic Disease. Retrieved January 26, 2016, from Today's Dietitian: http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/030413p42.shtml
Ipatenco, S. (2015, April 20). Is it Better to Sit or Stand While Eating? Retrieved January 26, 2016, from Livestrong.com: http://www.livestrong.com/article/491625-is-it-better-to-sit-or-stand-while-eating/
Mathieu, J. (2009). What Should You Know about Mindful and Intuitive Eatinng? Journal of the American Dietetics Association, Vol. 109, Issue 12, p1982.