We need to eat; it is a matter of survival. However, we often do not give enough thought as to why we are eating, what we are eating, how much we are eating, and how we feel while we are eating. Instead we eat mindlessly, grabbing whatever is available, eating too much, and too fast which leads to weight gain and other health problems.
Researchers estimate that we make over 200 decisions about food every day, giving us a lot of opportunities to practice being more mindful of what goes in our mouths. So, what does mindful eating look like?
First, be aware of why you eat. Are you hungry or is there another reason, such as boredom, stress, or just because the food was there? If you are not truly hungry, then food is not what you need.
Second, watch your serving sizes. When eating at home, dish up your plate in the kitchen rather than bringing large bowls of food to the table. Also, use smaller plates and glasses. Chances are good that you will be quite satisfied with the smaller portion. If you are dining out, ask for a to go box at the beginning of the meal and place half of your meal in the box before you begin eating. Remember that you do not have to belong to the “clean plate club.” Listen to your body and stop eating when your hunger is satisfied, regardless of what is still left on the plate. And never eat directly out of the box or large bag.
Third, slow down your eating. Because of our busy lives we tend to eat quickly without taking time to even taste the foods we are eating! Remember that it takes approximately 20 minutes for the “I’m full” signal to get from your stomach to your brain. Wolf down your meal in 2 minutes and the signal won’t reach your brain until it’s too late and you are stuffed. Also, if you don’t take the time to taste your food you will feel less satisfied and want to continue eating more. To help you slow down, make sure you chew your food well, put your fork down between bites, or take a short break half way through your meal.
Fourth, try to avoid distractions while eating. Watching TV, reading a book, or driving in the car will all take your attention away from what you are eating. It’s also best to get in the habit of eating at the kitchen or dining room table rather than standing in front of the refrigerator or sitting in front of the TV. Make eating a meal a mindful event, rather than something that just happens.
Laura Brieser-Smith, RD, MPH, CHFS is the owner of Healthy Designs, LLC which provides nutrition counseling and personal training to clients in their homes or offices. She can be reached at 303-635-1131 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.