Regardless of if you consume too many calories or too few. No matter if you eat 2 big meals a day or 5 small meals a day. No matter if you suffer from acid reflux or indigestion. And despite if you are what you would personally consider overweight, underweight, or just right—the most important thing about healthy eating for everyone of us is to remember that eating is all in your head—and by that I mean, we should eat more mindfully.
Mindful eating is rather new to me as well. However, for experts like Doctor Melanie Greenberg, a Clinical Psychologist and Mindfulness and Eating Disorder Specialist, mindful eating is the practice of deliberately taking note of every sensory experience associated with eating—while simultaneously leaving emotions (especially if they are critical or judgmental) about eating out of the experience altogether. According to Dr. Greenberg, eating more mindfully actually “re-wires the brain…[and] restores intuitive wisdom around eating” to make the experience enjoyable yet, “yields better control of fear… reduces stress and depression around eating and helps individuals maintain are more positive relationship with food and as well as a healthier body weight.
With that in “mind”, let’s explore the basics of mindful eating…
1. Turn Off and Tune In
We’re all apt to scarf down a few too many snacks in front of the television. And studies link the tendency to consume almost 25-percent more calories to being distracted by the TV, laptop, smartphone, or tablet. So be aware of what you’re noshing on by unplugging and focusing on what you’re putting in your body. This way you will actually pick up on the signal that your body is satiated before you overeat.
2. Eat With Purpose
Have you ever asked yourself why you really need that trip to the vending machine at 3pm? Next time ask the reason for the food and you might be surprised to discover that you aren’t actually hungry—you’re actually bored or stressed out. If it’s stress or boredom, perhaps a quick jaunt away from your desk will provide some temporary relief.
3. Focus on What You’re Eating
Next meal, instead of mindlessly gulping down that take out stir fry, use all off your senses and focus on what you are eating. Go ahead—smell, look at, touch, and taste each steamed veggie. Examine the colors of each bite, try to differentiate the unique flavors of the ginger, soy sauce, and lemon, and chew slowly so you can actually taste it. The point is we often inundate our meals with needless toppings and ingredients that we don’t even notice we’re consuming in the first place.
4. Slow Down
In addition to tuning out the exterior impulses—like the television—try eating more slowly. That might mean putting down your utensils between bites to wipe your face with a napkin, but really what you’re doing is chewing your food thoroughly, which will make it much easier to digest. You’ll also notice when you’re full so you’ll refrain from overeating and prevent indigestion and bloating.
5. Don’t Eat and Run
Instead of eating at the kitchen counter while standing up (I’m guilty of this); try marking your meals with a bit of ambiance and routine. That means setting the environment for eating—shutting off the television, gathering at the table, plating your food, and sitting at the table to eat its entirety. This will help you focus on the act of eating. It’s similar to devoting your bedroom to a better night’s sleep by nixing the television, not brining electronic devices to bed, and creating a sanctuary for comfort and sleep.
6. Let Yourself Feel
Do you feel a sense of guilt associated with eating? Perhaps eating is stressful for you? The act of eating mindfully will help you come to realize these feelings and accept them. According to Dr. Greenberg, eating can be very emotional, but mindful eating “isn’t about hiding from how you feel…noticing and accepting those emotions… without fighting them, may realize that ultimately your emotions don’t control you.”
7. Show Gratitude
Most of us pick up a steak or chicken breast at the local grocery store without ever considering the animal it came from, the farmers who raised it, or the machinery that touched that piece of meat before it was plastic wrapped. However, if you really think about the journey, it’s difficult not to feel a sense of gratitude and overwhelming satisfaction for each bite, of each meal.
8. Set a Dinner Schedule
If you want to help the entire family eat more mindfully, set a family dinner time where no one leaves the table until dinner time is complete. This may be an hour each evening, where the family congregates to enjoy a meal together, but it really happening is that everyone is focusing on the smell, texture, and taste of the food you are eating, and enjoying and paying thanks to the entire experience of mealtime.