N&N: Monarch experts share importance of mindful eating
WIth the holidays right around the corner, Monarch therapists, Mindfulness experts Dr. Karen S. Holst, MSW, LCSW, Ed.D. and Jude Johnson, MA, LMFT share why savoring your meals is key.
We are often in a rush throughout the day, completing tasks, crossing off items as they are completed and adding new things to a seemingly never-ending to-do list. We often try to accomplish as much as we can with the minimal amount of time in an effort to accomplish the task so we can “be done.”
Organizations frequently reward individuals for being efficient and effective and getting more done in less time. Because we often have so much to do and not enough time to do everything, we resort to multi-tasking both in our professional and personal lives. At work, we talk on the phone while making a to-do list or checking our emails, and we eat our lunch at our desks while we continue to work. At home, we talk on the phone and fold laundry, and we listen to our children tell us about their day while we go through the mail. This type of multi-tasking can lead to mindlessness or an unawareness of what we are doing because our minds are off some place else cultivating a split attention to what we are really doing. Eating is one example.
We eat in front of the television, in our cars, at our desks at work, when we are stressed, angry, sad, or bored. Despite the fact that we consume food many times throughout the day, we often do this mindlessly. The other task, whether it’s completing paperwork, driving, talking on the phone or being consumed by our thoughts, takes center stage while the actual act of eating is secondary.
I know I have sat in front of the television eating mindlessly and then suddenly realizing I have eaten the entire pizza. I was completely absent from the experience of eating the pizza as I was too engrossed in what was on television. We also eat with gusto, placing more food in our mouths before we swallow what we already have in our mouths. We take bite number 10, when bite number 9 is still being worked on, yet we keep shoveling more of what we are already tasting in our mouths. Something interesting to consider.
Sometimes we eat in an effort to distract us from uncomfortable thoughts or feelings we may be experiencing in the moment; similar to smoking or having a drink. Just with using cigarettes or alcohol to help us manage what is currently going on in our minds, chronic eating can lead to undesirable consequences that affect our overall health and wellbeing. Over eating can lead to weight problems and can affect self-confidence and self-esteem. Not feeling good about ourselves can then influence how often we eat if we are using food to distract us from uncomfortable thoughts or feelings. This can lead to a cycle; a vicious habit. In these cases eating is no longer associated with reducing hunger or providing nutrients to our bodies, it’s about avoidance, an attempt to push away what is actually happening in the mind.
So, eating mindfully is simply another way to give the gift of being in the present moment to yourself. Nothing else to do but eat, nourishing the body, being fully present with taking care of yourself through mindful eating.
This article originally appeared in the 2013 Summer Issue of the N.C. Tide Newsletter.