Mindful eating is the act of fully focusing on your food as you eat. Mindfulness refers to the practice of being aware and in the moment. When you are being mindful you are focusing on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts and surroundings.
Think about the last time you ate something. Can you remember what it was, where you were when you ate, how it tasted, how long it took you to eat it and what portion you ate? If you do not remember all the details of your last meal, that is normal. For most of us, we are multitasking and eating while we are doing something else, whether it is eating while working, driving, reading, watching tv or scrolling on our phone. You may have eaten that meal but not even enjoyed it because you were concentrating more on the task you were performing. This lack of awareness of the food you are consuming can often lead to over eating which can contribute to weight gain and other health issues. Eating mindfully requires some strategies including taking time to eat a meal, slowing down and removing distractions. The following strategies can help you attain a more mindful eating practice.
12 Mindful Eating Strategies
1. Make eating an exclusive event. When it is time to eat, put down your phone, turn off the tv and remove all distractions. Give attention to your meal; this way you can fully enjoy it. Removing distractions will also help you realize when you are full.
2. Set the stage. Eat at the table whenever possible and set out a plate, utensils, maybe even a nice placemat and a drink. Remove any clutter and make it a peaceful space. Avoid eating right out of containers as this can also lead toover eating.
3. Eat slowly. Eating slowly can help you better recognize your hunger cues. When you rush through a meal you often will eat too much and then feel very full. When taking your time to eat, aim to stop eating when you feel satisfied, not to the point of feeling full.. Try to put your fork down between bites to help slow things down.
4. Take your time at your meals. A meal should last about 20 minutes. This is how long it takes our brain to realize you are satisfied with your meal. Time yourself at your next meal to see how long it is taking you to eat. If you are breezing through a meal in less than 20 minutes, make a goal for future meals to be at least 20 minutes long. Consider setting a timer for 20 minutes and pace yourself to make sure your meal is lasting the allotted time. This will take practice so don’t give up after your first timed meal, keep at it until you have a better pace and a more mindful meal.
5. Chew your food thoroughly. Eating too fast can often cause bloating and discomfort after your meal. When taking a bite of food, try to chew that bite 20 times. This is another practice that will help slow things down and will help with your overall digestion.
6. Be mindful of the taste, texture and smell of your food. Take a moment to smell your food and enjoy the aroma. With each bite savor the flavor of your food and think about how it tastes and feels in your mouth. Being aware of these senses will add to the enjoyment of your meal.
7. Be mindful of how hungry you are. Serve yourself adequate portions and do not overload your plate. If you are not too hungry, serve yourself smaller portions. Serving too large of portions on your plate may lead you to overeat. A good practice is to follow the ( https://www.myplate.gov/ ) Myplate guidelines which encourage ½ your plate filled with fruit and vegetables, ¼ of your plate filled with whole grains and ¼ of your plate filled with lean protein.
8. Check your stress level. Eating is a common response to stress. During times of stress, you may find yourself turning to food even if you are not hungry. Food is often a comfort and is often used to help soothe us in stressful situations. Be aware of your stress and learn to do other things to cope such as deep breathing, meditation, an exercise class or a long walk.
9. Be mindful of your timing. It is important to eat before you get too hungry. When you are hungry it is very hard to practice some of these principles discussed. When you feel extremely hungry, you often eat too fast, make the wrong food choices and over eat. We often need a couple healthy snacks in the day between meals to avoid going long hours without eating. Having a healthy snack such as a piece of fruit and a handful of unsalted nuts or a Greek yogurt between meals can help keep hunger at bay and prevent overeating at your next meal.
10. Don’t be a grazer. Are you ever bored and find yourself opening the fridge, the pantry, the food cabinets and snacking along the way? Take a moment to think… Am I really hungry? Am I bored and wanting to eat because of that? Think about when you last ate, if you ate within the last 2 hours, chances are you are not really hungry and may just be bored. Grab a glass of water, maybe go for a quick walk, see how you feel. If it’s been over 2 hours you may be hungry and that is ok. Pick one healthy snack and set it out at the table or a quiet spot to eat it.
11. Resign from the clean plate club. Many people were brought up to finish everything on your plate. It is ok to cancel your membership with this club! Pack up your leftovers or acknowledge that it is ok to leave a few bites on your plate. Do not stuff yourself full just to clean your plate as this will leave you feeling full and uncomfortable.
12. Give Gratitude. Before you start to eat, take a moment to be thankful for the meal in front of you and thank the cook, even if it was you.