Mindful Eating for Health and Meal Satisfaction Print

How you eat is as important as what you eat

Andrea Holwegner as published in Calgary Herald Newspaper

 As a busy working mom with a very busy mind, I fell into mindfulness meditation when I was looking for a way to clear my mind and be more present. In a world that encourages mindlessness, practicing mindfulness can have benefits, not only for your health and eating habits, but also for those around you.

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What is mindfulness?

Simply put, mindfulness is a non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. One of my meditation teachers described mindfulness through ABCs:

A = Awareness of what you are thinking, doing and what is going on in your mind and body.

B = Being with your experience and avoiding the tendency to respond on autopilot and amplify problems by creating your own story.

C = Creating space between what you are experiencing and learning to respond more wisely insteaMindful Eating for Health and Meal Satisfactiond of reacting unskillfully.

The benefits include:

  • Lowered stress and reduced brain chatter.
  • Improved focus, concentration and attention.
  • Seeing things more clearly and creatively.
  • Responding more effectively to complex or difficult situations or emotions.
  • Improved connection and compassion to yourself and others.
  • Gratitude for good moments and grace for bad ones.
  • Making peace with imperfection.

Science: your brain on meditation

Meditation helps train your brain to become more mindful in everyday life. Neuroscientists have studied the brains of meditators versus non-meditators and can see that meditators have more grey matter in regions of the brain that are important for attention, emotion regulation and mental flexibility. Like practising any mental skill (such as math or music), the more you practise, the more you change and create the connections between neurons and change the structure of the brain.

How can mindfulness help me eat healthier and achieve my personal best weight?

How you eat is as important as what you eat. There are many reasons we eat that have nothing to do with necessity. We eat in response to environmental triggers such as seeing something that looked or smelled good or because of learned behaviour such as being told to always finish our plate as a child. We also eat in response to emotional triggers such as stress, loneliness or boredom. Using mindfulness to help check in on what, when, how much and why you eat can allow you to become more skilful at bringing your full attention into your body to nourish all types of hunger (physical necessity, emotional hunger and cravings related to the senses).  

Mindfulness and eating disorders

Mindful eating is a very useful tool for anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorders in the end stages of recovery. It can, however, be detrimental to use mindful eating strategies in the early stages of battling eating disorder thoughts. In the early stages, it is very hard to hear one’s own true self and trust intuitive hunger cues. If you are struggling with an eating disorder, exploring mindfulness of feelings with your psychologist is very useful. However, from an eating perspective you will need to learn to trust your dietitian to help you with mechanical eating first (a structured meal plan of what, when and how much to eat). In time when your weight is restored and you have reestablished hunger cues, exploring intuitive eating and mindful eating be a useful strategy.

5 Steps to Mindful Eating

  1. Remove distractions

When you are eating, only eat. Turn off your phone, television and move away from activities such as multitasking at your desk at work, driving or excessive talking that do not allow you to fully be present in the act of eating.   

  1. Pause and breathe

We often move from one task to another without allowing space for transition. Take a moment to take ten deep breathes, closing your eyes to allow your body and mind to settle. Assess your physical sensations that indicate hunger (such as stomach emptiness, stomach growling, desire to eat).

  1. Give gratitude and use your senses

Before taking a mouthful, imagine the different ingredients in their original form and the people responsible for your food from farm to table. Give gratitude that you actually have food on your plate. Notice the colour, texture and temperature of the food as you pick it up. Notice the aroma and taste as you place the food in your mouth.

  1. Notice how your mind responds and eat to comfortable satisfaction

Eat slowly since it is not possible to savour your food if you are not relaxed. While eating, notice thoughts that arise and be compassionate and non-judgmental. Eat to a level of comfortable fullness and true satisfaction. (Don’t stop just because you think you should, let your body cues drive you.)

  1. Pause and breathe again

Take a few more breathes before you finish eating and remind yourself of how the plate looked when it was full and how it looks now. Provide gratitude for the food itself and your ability to take time to nourish your body.

Post originally published in the Calgary Herald Newspaper

Also published in the National Post Newspaper

 

Calgary Dietitian Andrea Holwegner “the chocoholic nutritionist” is a corporate wellness expert and motivational speaker specializing in workplace health, stress and productivity.  She is launching an online nutrition course for distance education for individuals and time-strapped employees, looking to improve their overall nutrition habits. As owner of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. since 2000, she leads a team of Calgary nutritionists specializing in meal planning, weight loss, eating disorders, heart health, diabetes, digestive issues, sports nutrition, kids nutrition and more.  Visit www.healthstandnutrition.com  or phone 403-262-3466 for more information and to subscribe to her free monthly e-newsletter or award winning blog.  Twitter: @chocoholicRD. Facebook: @chocoholicRD  Instagram: @chocoholicrd

 

About Andrea Holwegner

CEO, Registered Dietitian, Counseling Practice Director & Professional Speaker

Andrea the «Chocoholic Nutritionist» is founder and CEO of Health Stand Nutrition Consulting Inc. since 2000. She is an online nutrition course creator, professional speaker and regular guest in the media. Andrea is the recipient of an award by the Dietitians of Canada: The Speaking of Food & Healthy Living Award for Excellence in Consumer Education....Read more

Success stories

"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. Andrea and her team really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Andrea is an excellent teacher and motivator. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

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