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Mindful eating: Let your body tell you when you're full

Scott Kidder

You may feel you don’t always eat because you’re hungry, but to fulfill other emotions, such as boredom, stress, sadness or anger.

Overeating can often be a result of mindless eating when we’re feeling these emotions, according to this week’s “Take Care” guest, Dr. Lynn Rossy. Rossy is the author of the book "The Mindfulness-Based Eating Solution: Proven Strategies to End Overeating, Satisfy Your Hunger, and Savor Your Life,” and is a licensed clinical psychologist for the wellness program at the University of Missouri. She is also on the board of directors for the Center for Mindful Eating.

Rossy says one of the biggest reasons for overeating disorders is using food for things other than physical hunger. This can include a range of emotions and make it much harder for what we eat to satisfy us. Rossy has found through her research that many people don’t even taste their food when they eat because they are not paying attention to it.

With this problem often comes lack of respect for your body, Rossy says, and to overcome that you need to start appreciating your body for what it can do and not how it looks.

“Your body is this amazing miracle -- I don’t care what size you are,” Rossy said. “You really need to befriend your body; it’s your body and you until the end of time.”

However, this can sometimes be a difficult realization to come to and then overcome. Fortunately, Rossy has an acronym called BASICSto help make this easier.

B: Breathe and belly check

Stress symptoms can sometimes mimic hunger symptoms, according to Rossy, and taking deep breaths can relax the body and help differentiate the two feelings. After taking a moment to do this, Rossy says you can check in with your stomach and see if you are actually hungry.

“My general rule is eat when you’re hungry, and don’t eat when you’re not hungry. That alone would change the way most people eat,” Rossy said.

Checking in with your stomach can also be useful when your full attention isn’t on your meal, such as at a social event or reading while eating. Taking a second to think about your stomach can help keep you from overeating.

A: Assess your food

Assessing your food before you eat it allows you to think about where it comes from and if it’s something you really want, or something you’re about to eat just to eat, says Rossy.

S: Slow down

Most of us are fast eaters, according to Rossy, and by slowing down it can make you realize when you’re full and help you better appreciate a meal.

I: Investigate hunger throughout the meal

At about the halfway point of every meal, take a break to see if you’re still physically hungry. If the answer is yes, then continue eating, but if the answer is no, put the rest away and save it for later or throw it out, says Rossy.

C: Chew thoroughly

When you completely chew your food, you get more nutrient value from it, says Rossy. This step can also correlate with slowing down.

“Chewing thoroughly sends messages to the brain that you’re going to be getting full,” Rossy said.

S: Savor your food

“If you can’t savor it, why are you eating it?” Rossy said. “We really want to use food as a time that we can enjoy and find pleasurable.”

By following BASICS, Rossy says you can break the cycle of eating just to eat and reconnect with hunger. This aspect of mindfulness can allow you to get rid of any anxiety you may feel when you’re hungry and not knowing what to eat, Rossy said. When you start to pay attention to the signals your body sends you, they can act as a guide to healthy portion sizes and lead to a healthier body.