On this day of thanksgiving, too much food can result in both groaning tables and tummies. But slowing down can lead to a more enjoyable eating experience and better health too.

According to dietician Debra Boutin, R.D., who wrote the article, “Mindful Eating” The First Step to True Nourishment” for the November issue of MASSAGE Magazine, “To succeed as a massage therapist means living your best life as a human being. Mindful eating is one way to practice self-nourishment and live life with a greater degree of fitness.”

And new research indicates that eating mindfully, or consuming food in response to physical cues of hunger and fullness, is just as effective as adhering to nutrition-based guidelines in reducing weight and blood sugar levels in adults with Type 2 diabetes

Boutin, who is chair of the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University, offers the following mindful-eating steps:

1. Prior to eating, accept and release three large breaths into and from your abdomen. Allow your abdomen to expand and contract with each breath. After eating, repeat. Bathe your digestive organs in breath in preparation for their important work.

2. Reflect silently on the source of your food for a few seconds before you eat. Thank those who have grown it, transported it and prepared it for you. Thank the plant or the animal that offered its life for your meal. If it feels comfortable to you, bless the food and acknowledge the energy it will bring to you.

3. Using this three-point scale, assess without any judgment your hunger level before you eat. Use the same scale as you eat to identify an appropriate time to stop eating: 1 = I am not physically hungry at this time or I may feel full; 2 = I am feeling signs of physical hunger and am having a desire to seek nourishment; 3 = I am feeling strong signals of physical hunger that may include noises and sensations in my abdomen or lightheadedness or dizziness, and have a desire to seek nourishment immediately.

4. Practice focused attention on the food you are eating. Describe to yourself or another how the food tastes and feels to you. Finding words to describe flavors and textures connects the mind and body around food.

5. Acknowledge your body’s signals and seek nourishment at regular intervals during your busy days to maintain a steady energy supply.

6. Make a list of distractions or external cues that personally influence your eating decisions. Identify if you sense these have undesired impacts on how you eat and how these eating experiences make you feel. Make a second list of ways to manage these distractions and external cues with meaningful activities that do not involve food.

7. Identify your favorite foods. Why are they your favorites? Are there any emotions you feel when you eat these foods? Reflect on the relationship between these foods and the emotions they evoke. Be aware of these relationships as you eat.

8. Define nourishment for yourself and make food choices that support your personal definition.

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