Mind Tactics for Better Sleep, Nutrition and Performance

mindful eating TK

Can eating a single dried strawberry improve your overall health? As part of Samueli Institute’s Teaching Kitchen, a 12-week experiential learning program, service members and their spouses learned how eating consciously is part of a healthy lifestyle.

Too often, because of the hustle and bustle of daily life, food is consumed without even a thought. You eat what’s put in front of you without thought to whether you are hungry or when you become full.

This is especially true for the high-speed lives of service members and their families.

Eating with the Five Senses

Participants were guided through a multi-sensory experience of eating a single piece of dried fruit. The exercise slows down the eating process to allow participants to see how one eats with all of their senses.

Statistics show that most meals are consumed in an average of 7-11 minutes. Participants were shocked to hear that just eating the raisin or strawberry was a 6-minute exercise. This means that most people would be finished with their meals in the time it took them to savor the morsel.

Fast eating can lead to overconsumption because the body doesn’t have time to cue your brain that you are full. COL Christine Edwards, who led the exercise and is pictured above, encouraged those struggling with eating speed to focus more on enjoying their meal rather than just slowing down.

Paying attention to the multi-sensory experience of eating is eating mindfully. Studies have shown that mindful eating can help with a heathy lifestyle.[i]

Respect Feelings of Fullness

Eating mindfully also requires tuning into your sense of fullness. Be alert to your body’s subtle clues rather than waiting for a belly ache. If something is so delicious that you want to keep eating, tell yourself, “I can have more later if I’m full. I don’t have to eat it now.”

Mindful eating is just one component of how mindfulness or mind tactics are incorporated into the Samueli Institute Teaching Kitchen program.

Mind Tactics for Sleep, Nutrition and Activity

Instructors focus on the same priorities included in the military’s Performance Triad: sleep, activity and nutrition. The Performance Triad was developed by U.S. Army Surgeon General Lieutenant General Patricia D. Horoho. The goal of the Performance Triad program is to positively influence personal health choices in order to optimize health, performance and resilience.

As part of the Teaching Kitchen program, service members and their families learn how meditation can be active by doing a walking meditation and how controlling the breath improves performance in military physical training or PT.

When on the firing range, service members are trained to take a breath and lower the heart rate before they fire a weapon. This breath control is part of making proper decisions. Participants learn how controlling the breath can lead to improved performance and lower anxiety.

At the end of the 12-week training program, researchers hope to see an increase in healthy life skills.

[i] http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/mindful-eating