Dr. Mark Bertin, a developmental pediatrician and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at New York Medical College, says that mindfulness and eating are a natural fit. There are very few areas of our lives to which we give so little attention as our eating habits. We tend to go on autopilot when it comes to eating and our dietary choices have been made through lifelong choices; they call them eating “habits” for a reason.
Mindful eating develops healthy eating with awareness, conscious decision-making and responsiveness when under stress as opposed to reacting under stress. It requires little more than paying attention to what we’re eating, when and how much. Easily develop mindful eating habits by following just a few recommended guidelines.
While this is not an exhaustive list, these guidelines are the first steps down a path to mindful eating.
- Pay attention to the “why” behind eating – is it hunger or does it just smell good?
- Be aware of shopping or eating habits – habitual behaviors can be changed; without self-judgment for what has happened before, pause before making choices and then be intentional when deciding what to purchase or consume next
- Take little pauses while eating – in between bites, set down the fork or spoon to consider body cues; stop eating when full, not when the plate is clean
- Be patient – avoid negative self-talk; recognize that habitual criticism of self is not beneficial and give credit where it’s due. Changes, no matter how small, are steps in the right direction
The most important step in living a mindful life is recognizing negativity in our lives and removing it gently but firmly. Focus on the positive, focus on the now, don’t dwell in the past and don’t worry about the future.
One of the greatest things we can do for our children is to be there; more than just occupying the same space as our children, but genuinely engaging with them. In this age of distraction, cell phones and television tend to be more important than time with our kids. Being a mindful parent can easily remedy this.
Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn are co-authors of the book Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting and Jon is the biomedical scientist who first introduced mediation into mainstream medicine. In a recent interview, Myla said, “We are so caught up in our thoughts that we’re being continually pulled away from the now – and we tend to miss it.”
The most important step to being a mindful parent is to enjoy our children for who they are, not who we expect them to be or hope they someday will be. Mindful parenting is about moment-to-moment, openhearted and non-judgmental attention. When interacting with our children it’s important to ask ourselves, “Am I reacting here or am I responding?”
During that same interview, Jon said, “The more complicated our lives are, the more important it is to live in the present moment – otherwise we’ll miss much of our lives. As a parent, you can’t withdraw to a cave to meditate. It’s all about now. When you tune into the breath and sensations in the body, you are stepping outside of time. Moment-to-moment, nonjudgmental awareness cultivated by paying attention – we are all capable of this. Mindfulness actually saves us a tremendous amount of time because we don’t go down so many dead ends with our thoughts. It doesn’t take any more time to be more mindful. It’s not a philosophy, it’s a practice. You don’t have to get less busy or fix anything. Simply reclaim your moments by showing up for them.”