Friday, December 11, 2009

Hint #1: Be Present at the Table

How many times have you driven to work - or to the grocery store, or to the mall - and remembered absolutely nothing from your drive? Perhaps you were daydreaming. Maybe you were on the phone. Or, you might have been singing along to the radio, completely oblivious to how you arrived from point A to point B.

For many of us, driving is so mundane and habitual, that we do not pay as much attention to it as we should. The same is true of our eating.

Do you eat breakfast while you drive? Do you work through your lunch? Do you snack while watching TV? If you answered yes to any of these, you are officially normal :) However, you also have to be cautious, because putting your eating second to other activities prevents you from fully focusing on your satiety and satisfaction while you consume food.

Really quickly, I want you to participate in what I call an intuitive eating exercise to illustrate what it means to be present at the table.

Go grab a snack - a cracker, piece of cheese, a grape, or something else small.

First, just hold the food item in your hand and look at it. What do you notice about its shape and color? How does it feel in your hand? Is it light? Heavy?

Next, bring the snack up to your nose and inhale. How does it smell?

Is your mouth watering?

How did this snack get to your hand? Was it grown on a farm? Manufactured in a factory? Shipped thousands of miles to your local grocery store? Be thankful for all of the elements involved in creating this food item and appreciate it as a source of nourishment.

Now, go ahead and bring the food to your lips and pay attention to the way it feels on them. Then, put it in your mouth without chewing it, and notice how it feels just sitting on your tongue.

Ok ... go ahead and chew it. SLOWLY :) Savor every morsel. Do you like the texture? Do you like the flavor? Notice any after-taste.

Now, come back to reality. Obviously it would be unrealistic to ask you to pay such close attention to your senses at every meal. But, this should get you thinking about how important it is to actually pay attention when you eat.

As a personal trainer, I hear from clients day-in and day-out who have difficulty paying attention at mealtimes, which often leaves them feeling uncomfortably full. Our bodies do not want to be overloaded with food - they strive for balance, and overeating disrupts that balance. At Thanksgiving this year, I remember a couple of my family members describing how full they were after eating, and none of them seemed even remotely overjoyed about it. It is uncomfortable!

I do not want to belabor this point, so I challenge you to do this one, simple task: pay attention. The next time you go to the refrigerator for a snack or sit down for a meal, make a conscious effort to listen to your body's cues. Take your time, and give yourself the opportunity to recognize when you are satisfied ... NOT when you are full. If you are full, you have gone too far!

As the holidays approach, keep this in mind as you attend parties and sample those delectable goodies. Savor the foods you eat, but pay attention to your body so that you know when you have had enough.

To close, I will leave you with some food for thought, so to speak :)

"You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land, there is no other life but this."
-- Henry David Thoreau

I challenge each of you to be present ... not only at the table, but in every moment of your life.

Bon Appetit!

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