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March is National Nutrition Month, a Great Time to Practice Mindful Eating

02 Mar

Greetings from the frozen Cuyahoga Valley, where March came in like a lion, and according to superstition it should go out like a lamb.

The river and parks here are beautiful in winter, and Cindy’s Huskies love winter and snooze in the snow, but we humans are so ready for spring.

It has been a long, cold winter for most of the country, and for a number of reasons, this extended deep-freeze could contribute to mindless eating for many of us.  This makes March a great time to celebrate National Nutrition Month and the perfect time to practice mindful eating.

Mindfulness is the act of bringing awareness to the present moment and the sensations we are feeling in our bodies in that moment, such as following our breathing as the air enters and leaves our bodies. The practice quiets the mind, and makes us fully aware of each moment. When we bring this process to the way we eat, we are more likely to feel satisfied and less likely to choose the wrong foods or overeat.

A few years ago, I attended a meditation weekend for beginners at Green Gulch Zen Center, on the Northern coast of California. The weekend consisted of sunrise and sunset meditation, instruction, dharma talks, lots of tea and three simple meals, served in a large dining hall. Each meal began with 15 minutes of silence, after which a bell rang to signify it was okay to talk. The interesting thing was that once we could talk, most of us had very little to say as we smiled and nodded to our companions and continued to focus on our food. The really amazing thing was how the food tasted. I remember asking a man who was collecting dishes from the tables the name of the vegetable I was eating-so good and sweet and buttery, though it had no seasoning or condiments on it-must be some kind of strange, imported food, I thought. He smiled and simply said, “Lettuce.”

In my life, I had consumed a lot of lettuce, but always drowned in dressing. I don’t think I ever ate just lettuce the way they served it. That is a good example of mindful eating. Those simple meals always tasted so good. We were learning mindfulness and we were learning to translate that to everything we did, including eating. This practice is a good fit for National Nutrition Month, which is about eating right-so much more than simply dieting or losing weight.

The National Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics encourages us to enjoy the taste of our food and offers tips, such as enjoying family meals, getting kids involved in the selection and preparation of food, filling our plates with naturally colorful foods from essential food groups and savoring each bite.

In the audio program The Joy of Eating Well, by Andrew Weil and Carolyn Ross, Weil states, “There is an awfully lot of unconscious eating in our society.” He goes on to describe how habits like eating in front of TV, or the computer or while driving or performing any other activity is a mental habit that leads to overeating. Listen to an audio sample of his explanation of conscious eating here. To access an audio sample of a mindful eating exercise by Carolyn Ross, click here.

Another audio program that helps promote a good relationship with food is Bite by Bite, by Geneen Roth, who calls it a step-by-step program to help you determine what you are truly hungry for and create a healthier relationship with food. Get both CD’s, along with Belleruth’s popular Weight Loss audio program in our Emotional Eating Mastery Kit.

To help you get or stay on the track to eating and living well, we have many programs on mindfulness, nutrition, stress, self-esteem, weight loss and so much more. Check them out in our online store or the Health Journeys 2014 Catalog.

As always, we love hearing from you. Tell us your winter stories and if you are in a warm climate, it’s okay to brag a little. We understand.