Pawsitive Nutrition

Welcome to the Nutrition Blog for Georgia State University’s Recreational Services. Recreational Services strives to promote healthy lifestyles through exceptional recreational programs, services and facilities. This blog is kept up to date by the graduate nutrition students. Anyone who has questions or would like to talk should feel free to stop by the Student Recreation Center, Room 150 (inside the Fitness Center). Enjoy the blog!


Mindful Eating

Not Just What You Eat but How You Eat

Mindful Eating Questionnaire1:
Are you a mindful eater? Answer True or False to the following questions to find out:

  • When I am sad, I eat to feel better.
  • I think about things I need to do while I am eating.
  • I eat so quickly that I don’t taste what I am eating.
  • When eating out, I eat all of my portion even when I am full.
  • Just going into the movie theater, I feel the need to eat popcorn.
  • I often eat while doing other things (watching TV, using a computer etc.)

If you answered true to any of these questions, you might benefit from mindful eating techniques. If you are looking to create healthier habits in the New Year then mindful eating could be an excellent habit to start. In our busy lives, we often consume food quickly and without much notice of how a food looks, feels, smells, or even tastes. We often gloss over these sensations when we are distracted by watching a movie, checking social media or texting. By reclaiming all our senses over the food we consume, we can not only enjoy our food more, but also make healthier decisions surrounding food2. This idea is central to mindful eating.

While mindful eating usually sounds appealing it can seem difficult to start. However, you can begin exploring mindful eating with some of these helpful strategies3. Try these to get started:

  • Keep a journal of hunger and fullness cues as well as emotional responses to food. This practice can help you start to recognize what it feels like to be hungry or full before you become uncomfortable.
  • Decide to eat at the table without distraction, including laptops, television, or cell phones. Instead focus on your food.
  • Slow down when eating to enjoy your food. Try setting down your fork or spoon between bites to savor the taste of each spoonful.
  • Give your stomach a chance to tell you if it’s full. It can take 30 minutes for your body to signal that it is full once it is satisfied. By slowing down when eating you give your body longer to realize it is full.

The idea of eating with all five of our senses instead of just our sense of taste can seem a bit foreign at first. However, by truly noticing and enjoying the sound, smell, look and feel of your food, you can actually enjoy your food more fully. This technique can also help with implementing the strategies discussed above. When you are truly engaging all of your senses you tend to eat more slowly and be more in tune with your hunger and fullness cues which increase mindfulness. Still confused about how to start mindful eating, this exercise can walk you through how to start using all of your senses when eating.

One important aspect of mindful eating is being fully present while eating meals and snacks. Many of us, either out of habit or lack of time, eat while working or watching television. The human brain struggles to focus on more than one task at once4. Multitasking instead of saving time often reduces productivity and enjoyment. Meaning that if you’re chewing a bite of a sandwich while writing an email, your brain is likely focused more on the email than on the food in your mouth. Unfortunately, this practice can speed the rate at which we eat and distract us from the meal we are consuming. When we aren’t fully focused on the food before us, we are more likely to overeat or feel less satisfied when we finish a meal. By turning off our screens, we can actually learn to appreciate and enjoy our food more and better engage in our work or our rest activities.

If you find yourself eating when emotional – stressed, anxious, bored, sad, happy – or if you feel out of control when eating, mindful eating can help with that too. If emotional eating happens to you, you are not alone. Emotional eating is very common in the United States, with up to 38% of Americans overeating or choosing unhealthy foods due to their stress levels5. By becoming more aware of the emotional cues and driving factors behind eating, you can take control of when and how much you eat.

Being aware is a great first step in a lifetime of healthy eating. If you would like help understanding this or would like more nutrition information, please reach out to Molly Paulson, MS, RD, LD (Registered Dietitian at the GSU Rec Center) or Sallay Jabbie (Graduate Assistant at the GSU Rec Center) to schedule an appointment. Appointments can be made by emailing: Mpaulson@gsu.edu or Sjabbie1@gsu.edu

References:

  1. Framson C, Kristal AR, Schenk J, Littman AJ, Zeliadt S, Benit.  Development and Validation of the Mindful Eating Questionnaire. J Am Diet Assoc.  2009 Aug 109(8): 1439-1444.
  2. Warren JM, Smith N, Ashwell M. A structured literature review on the role of mindfulness, mindful eating and intuitive eating in changing eating behaviours: effectiveness and associated potential mechanisms. Nutrition Research Reviews. 2017;30(2):272-283.
  3. Armand W. 10 tips for mindful eating – just in time for the holidays. Harvard Health Blog. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/10-tips-for-mindful-eating-just-in-time-for-the-holidays-201511248698. Published November 24, 2015. Accessed December 5, 2018.
  4. American Psychological Association. Multitasking: Switching Costs. American Psychological Association.
    https://www.apa.org/research/action/multitask.aspx. Accessed November 29, 2018
  5. American Psychological Association. Stress and Eating. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2013/eating.aspx. Accessed November 28, 2018.