The concept of mindful eating has been around for a long time but lately, we’re hearing more about it as health professionals share its message on their social media networks with hopes of improving our connection with the eating experience.
What exactly does mindful eating mean and how do you practice it? Put simply, mindful eating is the art of giving your full attention to every aspect of your eating experience:
- remove distractions (TV, phones, computers, etc) from meal time so you can focus on what you’re eating, how it tastes, and where it came from
- make food choices that both satisfy and nourish your body
- notice the smell, taste, texture, and appearance of foods
- notice and honor your physical feelings of hunger and fullness
With the face-paced lives we all have come to lead, it’s difficult to make time for these things. But the less time we make for food, the unhealthier our bodies and minds become. Regularly practicing mindful eating can help repair a broken relationship with food, whether it’s being fearful of eating carbohydrates, worrying if a certain meal is going to make you gain weight, or obsessing over the need to eat “clean,” for example. When we start to appreciate food for what it is (nutrition) and what it does (give us energy), we loosen the reigns on those harmful behaviors, begin to enjoy eating again and watch that little devil on your shoulder disappear. And while mindful eating isn’t necessarily meant to help you lose weight, you may find that weight loss occurs without you trying.
Here are four tips from Registered Dietitians that specialize in Mindful Eating. Try incorporating these tips at meal time this week and gradually transition to practicing them on a daily basis if possible.
1. Pause before eating.
Before you take the first bite, take a moment to notice the aroma and visual appeal of the food. Savor the sensations which accompany your meal. This short moment will help increase awareness so that you become more fully present to the meal ahead.
Alex Caspero of Delish Knowledge
2. Slow down when eating foods you typically over-indulge on and notice everything about that food.
One thing I’ve been working with a few clients on is really bringing a component of mindfulness specifically into eating those foods that clients feel like they can’t ‘control’ their intake on. These foods are often eaten quickly and while distracted. Instead of letting this be the status quo, I encourage them to sit down and really be mindful while eating it, at least 1x (but preferably more). They can sit down smell their favorite food, explore the textures, and then take a bite. They pay attention to the flavors, mouth feel, the sensations and really the whole experience. This slow process and noting reactions to each step is vital to separate feelings from expectations from guilt and so forth.
Mindful eating, in general, is beneficial to allow people to be present with their feelings & to recognize what they’re feeling to be able to address how/why they feel that way about eating any particular food. This allows them to be objective with their reactions. It also allows them to evaluate how that particular food makes them feel (in an emotional and physiological way) as well to see how it affects them without paying attention to outside forces that may cloud their judgment. Once this is done, we can then move on to why they eat those foods & feel the pull from them that they have.
Rebecca Clyde of Nourish Nutrition
3. Don’t let yourself get too hungry.
One of the simplest ways to make it easier to be mindful during meals is to not go into meals too hungry! Think about the last time you were over-hungry going into a meal (or snack) – you probably ate really quickly, and ate more than you needed, right? Simply paying attention to hunger levels and eating BEFORE you get too hungry (either having a snack, or eating your meal sooner regardless of the time) will make it much easier to slow down and pay attention to the food and how it feels. As a result, you’ll recognize more subtle fullness cues and be able to stop before you get too full.
Anne Mauney of Anne the RD
4. Practice mindful eating when you can and don’t feel bad if you can’t.
It’s impossible to eat mindfully 100% of the time. There are days where breakfast needs to be gobbled down in the car as you’re running late to work, dinner is sneaking in bites of food as your kids are throwing a tantrum, or lunch gets shoveled in at your desk trying to make the deadline for a project. The key is learning to take moments to simply pause and check-in with how you feel and your food tastes.
Rachael Hartley of Rachael Hartley Nutrition