With all of the fad diets that have come about over the last couple of decades, mindful eating has long been a scary territory for most. Our bodies are incredible machines that are capable of notifying us of what is required in order to function properly. It is my belief that we have the ability to nurture and heal our bodies through nutrition. There are many benefits that derive from eating mindfully, which include: reductions in emotional and disordered eating, weight loss, improved mood, and greater enjoyment of the foods you eat! What exactly does it mean to eat "mindfully"? Being intentional and mindful about the foods you consume means to maintain a moment-by-moment awareness of your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. I believe that people would be happier and healthier if they would focus less on the "diet of the moment" and more on learning to intuitively fuel, nurture, and love their bodies.
Here are 10 tips for more mindful eating. Not all of these tips may feel right for you — try a few and see how they work.
Before you begin eating, take a moment to reflect upon how you feel. Are you rushed? Stressed? Sad? Bored? Hungry? What are your wants, and what are your needs? Differentiate between the two. After you have taken this moment to reflect, then you can choose if you want to eat, what you want to eat, and how you want to eat.
Don’t eat on the go. Have a seat. You’re less likely to appreciate your food when you are multi-tasking. It’s also difficult to keep track of how much you are eating when you snack on the go.
Turn off the TV (and everything else with a screen)
Have you ever glanced down from your phone or tablet or computer, only to wonder where all the food went? These distractions make us less aware of what and how much we are eating.
Serve out your portions
Resist eating straight from the bag or the box. Not only is it easier to overeat when you can’t see how much you’ve had, but it is also harder to fully appreciate your food when it is hidden from view.
Pick the smaller plate
You might crave less if you see less. Smaller plates will help you with your portion control — an especially good strategy for those all-you-can-eat buffets.
Before you start to eat, pause and take a moment to acknowledge the labor that went into providing your meal — be it thanks to the farmers, the factory workers, the animals, mother Earth, the chefs, or even your companions at the table.
Chew 30 times
Try to get 30 chews out of each bite. (30 is a rough guide, as it might be difficult to get even 10 chews out of a mouthful of oatmeal!) Take time to enjoy the flavors and textures in your mouth before you swallow. This may also help prevent overeating by giving your gut time to send messages to the brain to say you’re full.
Put down your utensil.
Often, we are already preparing the next morsel with our fork and knife while we are still on our previous bite. Try putting down your utensils after each bite, and don’t pick them back up until you have enjoyed and swallowed what you already have in your mouth.
Realize that you don’t have to clean your plate
Many of us were brought up to finish everything on our plate and were not allowed to leave the table until we did. Consider packing the leftovers to go, or just leaving the last few bites. Even though nobody likes to waste food, overstuffing yourself won’t help those in need. (This is also where Tip #5 comes in handy.)
Try eating your meals in silence once in a while. When it’s quiet, it is natural for the mind to wander; acknowledge these thoughts, and then see if you can gently return to your experience of eating. Be conscious of the food’s consistency, flavor, tastes, and smells, and fully appreciate the moment. Of course, mealtime can be an important time for sharing the day when the whole household gathers, so having an entire meal in silence might be impractical or just feel awkward. But even spending the first five to 10 minutes in silence can be refreshing and set a grateful tone for the rest of the meal.