Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Mindful Eating with Oranges

 'Tis the overeat.  It's practically expected and even encouraged of us during this festive, food-centric time of year. How many holiday feasts throw moderation to the wind during that second, third, or even fourth helping, or that extra slice of pie? No big deal, we rationalize; we only do this once or twice per year, after all. Except that statistics show that Americans actually binge a lot more often than that, and that the season for gratitude is quickly being replaced by the season for overconsumption.

The Overconsumption Cycle

A big part of the reason for this urge to binge, according to Psychology Today, is actually due to deprivation.  While that may sound paradoxical, closer examination reveals a lot of logic to this observation: by totally depriving ourselves of foods we really love during times when we have good willpower, we are only building up potential energy for a binge fest during times of stress, fatigue, or when given an excuse like a holiday feast.  This hyperbolic pattern of eating is unwholesome for the body and the mind, because it also fosters feelings of guilt and shame. These feelings exacerbate an unhealthy cycle: we don't eat what we "shouldn't," then we eat too much of it, then we feel bad about ourselves, and the cycle starts all over again. However, there is a solution, and it doesn't involve giving up the joy of a hearty meal.

Oranges to the Rescue!

Enter the humble yet all-powerful orange, which is a delicious, nutrition-packed gateway to moderation and a wonderful choice for cultivating mindful eating. Just eating an orange, mindfully or not, will immediately fill you up with nutrients and fiber enough to make you want to eat less and eat healthier, especially when paired with a tall glass of fresh water. Starting any meal with an orange, or eating an orange after a meal but before dessert, will work wonders to curb overindulgence.

What is Mindful Eating?

The solution to breaking the deprivation-overeating cycle, according to health experts and dieticians, is mindful eating, also known as intuitive eating.  The concept of intuitive eating is multi-faceted: honor your hunger, look at food as your sustenance versus your enemy, end self-judgement based on what foods you're choosing to eat at any given moment, slow down your chews and swallows and begin to tune in to when you feel satisfied, practice self-compassion when you are struggling, make smart food choices without depriving yourself of other foods you might not classify as "smart" but which you really really want (think of that pie!), stay active. While these may read like a list of very different things, they really all are versions of being mindful about your relationship to food and your body.  But how can we learn to be mindful in this way?  Once again, we can turn to the mighty orange!

Meditation on an Orange

Try this easy meditation exercise in the morning, right after waking up and before you carry on with the rest of your usual routine.  

    *Inhale. Exhale. 

    *Walk slowly to the kitchen, paying attention to the sensation of the contact of your feet on the floor.

    * Reach your hand out and pick up an orange from Florida Fruit Shippers

    *Feel its size and weight in your hand.  Turn it around a few times, getting a sense of its texture and observing its color and shape. 

    *Close your eyes.  Bring the orange to your nose and inhale deeply. Imagine the sun, rain, and soil that grew the tree that fruited this orange. 

    *Open your eyes and observe the orange again.  Gently begin to peel the rind, being attentive to the feel of the flesh and the aroma of the zest. 

    *Tenderly separate each segment of the orange. Observe the patterns and colors on a segment. 

    *Draw a segment to your mouth. Inhale. Exhale. Take a small bite. Notice the burst of juice and sweetness on your tongue and the inside of your cheeks. 

    *Chew slowly, and do not lift another segment until this one has been fully experienced, chewed, and swallowed.  

    *Continue with the remaining segments, inviting your senses to partake of each step. 

    *Notice any additional or new sensations or emotions, such as an urge to rush, and allow these feelings to arise without judging or acting on them.  Continue to move slowly and mindfully, and with gratitude.  

When the orange has been fully ingested, remain still for a few more minutes, inhaling and exhaling, enjoying the aftertaste, and inviting  gratitude.  Notice throughout your day how this mindful eating can inform your other meals and even your other tasks. Here's to a happy and healthy holiday season, and an invitation to enjoy--really enjoy--your holiday meals!


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