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how to practice mindful eating

How to Practice Mindful Eating

by John Senft, NASM-CPT, YES, NBATA-CELeave a Comment

Often young adults starting college gain weight due to their change in environment (i.e. different eating habits, lack of working out, etc.) It’s been coined the “Freshman 15.” Now that COVID-19 has interrupted everyone’s daily routine, people are buzzing around the term “Quarantine 19.” With the sudden change in our habits, people may feel as if they are putting on additional weight, and notice their eating habits have changed. Stress eating, access to more or different foods, distracted/mindless eating, and different eating patterns – can all account for weight gain. The closure of gyms, running paths, and recreational activities can also contribute to weight gain. Here are some solutions to practice more mindful eating.

Effects of Stress

COVID-19 has changed our lives, and we are experiencing new and different stresses every day. While stress eating is not new, it may be to some or more prevalent for others. In my experience with stress eating, I found the best way to combat the urges is to ask “why am I eating this?” or “should I be eating this?”

Find Healthy Options

One way to refocus is to find healthier options, but still enjoy a little treat every once in a while. Grabbing a handful or a small dish of your desired treat can help control your portions. Start asking yourself why you have these cravings, focusing on the “why” you want the snack. Try replacing it with a healthier option. For example, fruit can replace candy and greek yogurt can replace ice cream.

Meal Planning

Meal preparation takes time, effort, energy, and sometimes creativity but is super beneficial. Your body and your mental well-being will thank you! Try planning all meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner, even snacks. Don’t just consider what you are going to eat but also when you are going to eat it. This can eliminate the last second $5 – 2 pizza slices and a pop deal. Planning can take the stress out of what you are going to eat. Change up your meal prep to incorporate a variety of healthy foods. Be sure to take time to still enjoy some of your favorite foods. By having a scheduled “cheat day,” you can prevent the day from extending to the whole weekend. Working from home? Be sure to plan your lunch to eliminate distracted eating. With so many of us now working from home, we may find ourselves snacking during meetings, working through lunch, and eating at our desks.

Eating without Distractions

Did you know it can take up to 20 minutes to feel full? When you eat, there is a delay between when you consume food and when it reaches your gut. Distracted/mindless eating is when something else is occupying your attention while eating. It could be work, eating at your desk, eating while studying or reading, eating while watching TV or playing video games. And while you can eat while doing those things, you should pay attention to the portion size and try to make healthier choices. Measuring your food or weighing it can help with portion size. Halfway through eating take a few moments to evaluate if you feel full or are still hungry. If you’re still hungry, continue eating but pay attention to how you feel. Sipping on water as you eat can also help in achieving that full feeling. Not eating while distracted can also help you recognize when you feel full.

With more time to cook, it’s a great time to try new, healthy recipes and, to be intentional with your habits. Whether it’s staying on schedule with moving your body or meal prepping so when you’re hungry you choose a healthy option.

Healthy meal idea: Family taco bowl night!

This is a refreshingly simple, healthy and fun way to get the family involved in meal planning!

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 different kinds of beans (black, pinto, refried work – they’re all full of iron and healthy carbohydrates and proteins for the family)
  • Whole wheat tortillas
  • Mixed greens, baby kale or spinach
  • Low fat or plant-based sour cream
  • Low fat or plant-based shredded cheese
  • Salsa of preference
  • White or brown rice – cooked
  • Corn or Grain-free tortilla chips

Directions: Cook beans or use canned beans that you can heat up and set to the side. Arrange ingredients in bowls. Ensure that the family has washed their hands and is ready to help make their dish. Each person can choose to make nachos, a taco salad, burritos, or tacos – it’s a chance to get creative. In this recipe, you’ll have healthy sources of whole food nutrients without a lot of preparation or use of cooking appliances!

My family uses ground turkey as well. Another suggestion, swap out the tortillas with lettuce.

Mindful eating can take some time to master but keep with it and you’ll be on your way towards a healthier you! John Senft is a strength and conditioning coach as well as a fitness specialist. For at-home workout and fitness inspiration, follow his Instagram or reach out to John.Senft@athletico.com.

The writers and publishers of Athletico.com are not nutritionists or registered dietitians. All information presented and written within Athletico.com are intended for informational purposes only. Each individual’s dietary needs and restrictions are unique to the individual. You are ultimately responsible for all decisions pertaining to your health.

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