Home Diocesan News Mindful eating is all about ‘awareness,’ says Mercy Health/St. E. dietitian
Mindful eating is all about ‘awareness,’ says Mercy Health/St. E. dietitian Print E-mail
Written by Debora Shaulis Flora, Special to the Exponent   
Friday, 14 July 2017 13:44

If practicing mindfulness can help you to manage stress, improve memory and stay focused, imagine what it might do for your waist line, blood pressure and cholesterol.

Local health care professionals want to reduce rates of hypertension, diabetes and heart disease among local residents, says Bridget Lackey, a registered dietitian at Mercy Health’s St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital. Thus, she and the staff of the Community Health Education department worked with doctors to create a public outreach program titled “Healthy Eating for You … Eating Mindfully.”


Patients may seek healthier eating advice from their doctors, but “‘just tell me what to eat’ doesn’t work,” Lackey said. It’s more about awareness, she said.


The program was partly inspired by researchers at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., who found that the average person makes more than 200 food decisions daily – often with little if any awareness. By contrast, mindfulness is a centuries-old practice of moment-to-moment awareness while reserving judgment.


The “Eating Mindfully” series consists of three sessions, each about 90 minutes long. Classes are not based on diet types, Lackey said. Instead, the focus is on portions, ingredients and environmental or emotional influences on eating habits.


Concerning portions, an overwhelming majority of people belong to the “clean plate club” – the habit of eating everything on the plate or in the container without recognizing the sensation of feeling full, Lackey said.

Other common examples of mindless eating, according to Lackey:

Multitasking during meals, including using cell phones and checking email.

Failing to plan for meals and incorporate healthy foods into menus. Meal planning is “investing in your own health. We need to put more value on ourselves,” she said.

Peer pressure, because studies also have shown that portion consumption often increases in large-group gatherings. Referring to food, she said, “We celebrate with it. We mourn with it. We drown our sorrows with it.”


“Eating Mindfully” program participants take a Mindful Eating quiz to assess their habits. They discuss tips on how to reduce portion sizes, such as using smaller dinner plates at home. Ultimately, mindful eating means “living in the moment” of eating.


“Are you tasting, savoring that cookie? Does it taste good? Or does it change your mood?” Lackey asked. “How do you know when you are hungry? It’s the difference between being in charge and having control over one’s diet.”


The “Eating Mindfully” presentations are free but participants must register by calling 330-480-3070. Sessions are not interdependent. The series is offered in a rotation at three local Mercy Health facilities: St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital, St. Joseph Warren Hospital, and St. Elizabeth Boardman Hospital.


Lackey said she measures the program’s success by the number of participants who increase their daily intake of fruits and vegetables, recognizing their “powerful role in eating. We need to bring these up on the value meter,” she said.


Mercy Health also supports healthy eating by sponsoring farmers’ markets once a month through October at three locations: St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital, Courthouse Square in downtown Warren, and the Idora Neighborhood stand at Glenwood and Sherwood avenues in Youngstown. For information about these markets, call 330-480-2380.
Mercy Health also offers free “Stepping Out” programs at churches, schools and community centers in Youngstown and Warren. Features include fitness programs such as line dancing and strength training; healthy cooking and eating workshops; and health screenings. Call 330-720-3293 for details.

 
 

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