We have all had the experience of sitting down with a bowl of chips and salsa while watching the big game or sat down to eat breakfast with the morning paper only to look down a few minutes later and realize we have consumed the whole bowl of chips or eaten all of our breakfast with no memory of putting anything in our mouth. Not only have we missed the pleasure of savoring the tasty food we have prepared for our self but we also run the risk of eating past the point of being full. When we overstuff our stomachs, not only can it be extremely uncomfortable but it also makes it more difficult for our digestive system to function properly.
Mindful eating offers us a solution to this problem. Mindful eating is eating with attention to what is going into your mouth. It allows you to be fully present in the experience of eating. It requires you to pay attention to the sight, sound, texture, flavors and taste of your food. When you are eating mindfully, you can listen to the cues your body is providing about satiety, making it more likely you will stop eating before you become over full.
Here are a couple of tips to make it easier to start eating mindfully.
- Make sure you are actually hungry before you start to eat. If you are only eating because you are bored or anxious then even if you fill yourself with a piece of delicious chocolate cake, you will still be bored or anxious when you finish.
- Choose food you are actually interested in eating. If you are only eating something because it is “good” for you, it will be difficult for you to actually feel satisfied when you are finished. This dissatisfaction could send you hunting in the fridge for something to fill you up.
- Create a pleasant environment for your meal. Sit down at the table. Don’t eat while driving or talking on the phone. Choose a spot that is only for eating and have all of your meals in this space.
- Eat without distractions. This means no reading the newspaper, watching tv or surfing the web.
- Take a few deep breaths before you start eating to center yourself and get focused on the meal.
- Allow yourself the luxury of time. Put your fork down between bites and focus on chewing your food completely. It takes about 20 minutes for your body to recognize satiety clues.
- Pay attention to your food. Notice the taste, texture, smell and appearance of every bite.
- Stop eating when you feel about 80% full. Step away from the table as soon as you are done eating.
- Notice how you feel when you finish eating. If you feel over full, don’t beat yourself up. Remember you have another chance to make a different choice at your next meal.
For most of us, eating mindfully represents a shift in our relationship to food. As with all new habits, eating with focus and attention will take some time to develop. However, I am confident that if you keep working on this skill, you will notice a real change in your experience with food.
Picture from flickr.