When was the last time you truly paid attention to what you were eating — when you truly savored the experience of a meal? Often, we eat on autopilot, inhaling our food while our attention is on the TV, laptop or our phone.
Mindful eating encourages us to remove those distractions and sit uninterrupted for a meal. In doing so, we begin to take our time, eat more slowly, and reconnect with our senses.
Mindful Eating: Slow Down for a Moment
Why do you eat when you eat?
Are you hungry, bored, stressed?
Today, we’re going to review some simple ways to recognize these habits (you may not even realize you’re doing it), and talk about ways to navigate around them for more mindful eating.
Eat With Your Brain
Most of us are guilty of aimlessly walking into the fridge after just eating a meal, opening it up and searching for something else to eat.
Are we really still hungry or maybe it’s just that we’re bored… or simply in the habit of grabbing something sweet after dinner. There are so many different environmental factors that play a role in mindless eating. And many we don’t even recognize.
In order for the body to realize it is becoming full it needs to work with the mind. When you pay attention when eat, you not only allow yourself time to feel full, but studies show that you’ll also enjoy what you’re eating more.
Refresh your perspective.
Diets and challenges are pretty much synonymous with short-term restriction and feelings of deprivation. Because of this most diets fail after the first week. Of course, we’re not going to let that happen.
Prepare healthy, not convenient, food and refresh your perspective on the healthy habit changes you’re starting to implement to embrace them as a lifelong change.
Mindful eating simply invites us to be present during the cooking process or while eating. It allows us to truly savor our food without experiencing any judgment, guilt, anxiety, or sabotaging inner self-talk. Here are some ideas to help you get started:
- Sit down when you eat.
- Take a breath and appreciate what is in front of you and be present in the moment.
- Take a look at the ingredients list and read each word. If you can’t pronounce the ingredients, put it down (and then don’t buy it again).
- Giving thanks or saying a mantra to yourself might help you slow down. Try something like: “I eat to nourish and energize my body.”
- Keep practicing. Just like any habit, mindful eating takes practice.
- Put down distractions…
Put down distractions.
Distractions take away from our intention to appreciate the food on our plate. Its texture, smell, taste and how it will benefit our bodies, energy, performance, etc. Try to identify when something other than hunger is making you want to eat and then steer your attention to your goal oriented activity instead.
Listen, I’m a mom of twins. I know a distraction when I see one. Use what you’re learning as a teaching tool for your children, but set real expectations. Help them instill mindful eating habits early on to set them up for success later in life. It won’t happen overnight… and they will most likely get distracted by the bunny in your yard time and time again. But, if you can you can make an effort to be present as a family, just a little bit at a time, you’ll be more likely to succeed.
Food for Thought
Where were you at lunchtime or dinner time yesterday?
Who was with you and what did you talk about?
If you were alone, did you do anything else besides eat?
What was your mood like when you were eating?
Some days we won’t be able to remember the answers to these questions. The truth is, some days we’ll be lucky enough to sneak in a meal in between meetings and kids practice.
Make an effort to enjoy a peaceful meal over the next couple days.
Don’t let food become a mindless afterthought.
Take a Deep Breath
Now sit down, take a deep breath and really savor what you’re eating. And then read more on The New York Times, “Mindful Eating as Food for Thought.”
“The rhythm of life is becoming faster and faster, so we really don’t have the same awareness and the same ability to check into ourselves. That’s why mindful eating is becoming more important. We need to be coming back to ourselves and saying: ‘Does my body need this? Why am I eating this? Is it just because I’m so sad and stressed out?’
For many people, eating fast means eating more. Mindful eating is meant to nudge us beyond what we’re craving so that we wake up to why we’re craving it and what factors might be stoking the habit of belly-stuffing.”
More on our Salus Nutrition Coaching Blog:
- Strive for Progress Not Perfection
- Plan Ahead
- Set Real Expectations
- Overcoming Procrastination: Just Do the Dishes Already
- Hangry? We’ve All Been There
- Taking Control of Cravings and Temptation
- Personal Improvement
- Changing Habits
DISCLAIMER: It’s important to note that individuals dealing with an eating disorder should first consult with a health care professional before incorporating mindful eating as part of a broader strategy.