I’m sure that in this day and age, you’ve heard of “mindful eating”, but do you know what it really means? Do you practice it?
In our busy lives today, we tend to do everything at warp speed, including eating our meals, just so we can get it done and move on to the next thing on the to-do list.
And while it may be convenient to shove your food down in 5 minutes or eat while you work at your desk, this can actually be harming your health.
When you eat too fast, the likelihood of you overeating increases significantly. It overrides the mechanisms that tells your brain “Hey, I’m full!”. It takes about 20 minutes for the signal to get to the brain that you should stop eating, so when you shove all your food down in 5-10 minutes, you might find yourself reaching for seconds because you haven’t given your body enough time to realize it’s had enough food.
Aside from overeating and weight gain, eating too fast can also negatively impact digestion, gut health, insulin, hormone balance, energy, etc.
Practicing mindful eating is a way to reverse this habit and transform your relationship with food. It is a way to get all of your senses engaged in the process, and really make your meal an experience, instead of just a habitual task. When you appreciate your food, you are more likely to make healthful food choices.
“So, how do I practice this mindful eating thing?”
I’m glad you asked!
Here are a few ways to start getting in the habit of eating mindfully:
- Eat in a distraction free zone. Put away the phones, computers, tablets, and get away from the television. This way you can focus on what is actually in front of you, your food and the people eating with you (you might actually have a conversation with them instead of posting your food on Instagram)
- Put your fork down between each bite. This will help you slow things down and take your time. If you already have your next forkful ready before you can chew the one before it, you’re going too fast. Give yourself the 20 minutes your body needs to realize it’s full
- Engage your senses. Notice how your food smells, tastes, and feels. Whether this feedback is positive or negative, acknowledge it as part of the experience
- Be aware of physical hunger. Are you eating because you’re actually hungry, or is it because it’s “time” to eat, you’re bored, emotional, thirsty, at a social event, etc.? Learn to tune in with your body and recognize what true hunger feels like
- Make it an experience. Food is something that should be enjoyed, not forced down as quickly as possible. Make your meal an experience by actually sitting at the table, lighting a candle, putting on music, enjoying the company of others, etc.
- Be thankful. You don’t necessarily have to say a prayer before your meal, but just take a second to be thankful for the food that is in front of you and how it is nourishing your body. When you appreciate your food, you are more likely to take your time eating it and enjoying it, and will be more likely to make healthful choices if you acknowledge what is going into your body.
These practices are all things that you can start implementing right away to move towards more mindful eating habits. These simple changes can make a huge difference in the way that you think about and experience food. I usually find that once someone practices more mindful eating habits, they also start to make better food choices.