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Understand hunger cues with mindful eating

Mindful Eating
When the body needs energy from food, we start to feel weak, fatigued and irritable. When you eat, those symptoms go away. However, knowing when to stop eating is very difficult if you don’t pay attention to your body. Mindful eating can help you better notice your body’s fullness signal. Here are five tips for mindful eating.

The distractions of daily life can make us forget about taking time to enjoy a healthy meal. Mindful eating, or intuitive eating, a concept with deep roots in Buddhist teachings, focuses on reconnecting people more deeply with the experience of eating. When put into practice, mindful eating can refocus our body to notice hunger signals, and not emotional cues like eating for comfort.

Hunger and fullness are regulated by the brain, digestive system and endocrine system. When the body needs energy from food, we start to feel weak, fatigued and irritable. When you eat, those symptoms go away. However, knowing when to stop eating is very difficult if you don’t pay attention to your body. Mindful eating can help you better notice your body’s fullness signal.

Here are five tips for mindful eating:

  • Eat slower: Take at least 20 minutes to finish a meal to give your body enough time to send the fullness signal from your stomach to your brain. If you eat too fast, or are surrounded by distractions, it can be very easy to miss this signal and overeat. And remember to drink water at your meals. Taking sips of water between bites can help you eat slower.
  • Avoid distractions: Turning off the TV, or keeping your phone away from table, can help immensely with recognizing your body’s fullness signal.
  • Enjoy the silence: Eating in silence may be difficult, especially if you have kids and a family. However, eating quietly can help you relax from a stressful day.
  • Savor the flavors: Along with eating slower and avoiding distractions, try to focus on enjoying the seasonings and spices in your meal.
  • Understand your cues for mindless eating: Do you eat because you are irritable or angry? Anxious or stressed? Bored? Depressed or sad? Hungry or craving food? By understanding why you eat when you eat, you can help to control eating for reasons other than real hunger.

If you have a food craving, stop and think, “Why am I hungry?” Try to first drink a cup of water, since dehydration can cause false hunger cues. If you still want something to eat, grab a piece of fruit or vegetable slices and some almonds or walnuts for a balanced nutritious snack. Remember to pre-portion your snack on a small plate so you don't end up eating more than you need.

Mindful eating takes time and effort, but with practice you can learn to understand your body’s hunger cues. Learning to eat only when our body needs fuel can help you maintain a healthy weight and live a healthier life.

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