How to Practice Mindful Eating
Have you ever eaten breakfast in the car on the way to work? Brought your lunch to your desk and ate while taking calls or returning e-mails? Sat on the couch and felt surprised when your hand hit the bottom of the bag of chips? If so, you aren’t alone. In the hustle and bustle of today’s society, eating has often become a mindless act.
While this is a normal thing from time to time (life happens!), if you are always eating mindlessly it may come at a cost. Mindless eating is associated with more emotional eating, overeating, and increased stress around food. It also makes it harder to distinguish between emotional and true, physical hunger.
On the other hand, mindful eating is about awareness and intention. The idea is to slow down and be fully in tune with all tastes and textures of the food you are eating. It allows you to connect with your body and be more in tune with your hunger and fullness cues.
Listed below are a few steps to practice mindful eating. Don’t beat yourself up if mindful eating doesn’t come naturally or you catch yourself eating at your desk. Find compassion for yourself – this is a process and it’s not going to happen overnight!
Take three deep belly breaths before your meals. This helps your body get into rest and digest mode and out of “fight or flight”. It’s a good way to start the meal because it reminds you to slow things down.
Eat slowly, chew thoroughly. This might sound gross, but you really want to make sure your food is mushy before you swallow. Digestion starts in the mouth and chewing is an important part of the process.
Practice eating without distraction. If you have to eat at your desk, close your laptop or minimize your e-mail. Do your best to focus on the meal in front of you. If you normally watch TV while you eat dinner at home, turn it off. Try music if you need some noise. Light a candle if your feeling fancy. Create an ambiance that makes you want to slow down.
Half-way through the meal check in with yourself: “Does this still taste good? Am I still hungry? How do I know?”
Can you identify hunger in your body? What does it feel like? What does fullness feel like? Get to know your body. It will take some time and lots of paying attention.
Homework : Start by eating one meal daily completely free of distractions. Try this for a week and take notes!