Mindful eating is an extremely important component of a healthy lifestyle. Even if you are eating the right foods, eating too much, too little, as a response to stress, or due to boredom can be detrimental to a persons healing journey. Mindlessness can go in either direction: a person can over or under eat due to stressful situations or a busy schedule, shoving food in their mouth without even thinking about it. On the other hand, there is such thing as being too regimented and eating according to “rules.” This can also lead to both over and under eating. Usually the under eating comes first, and the deprived person binges on “bad” foods that they had been avoiding. Developing a mindful eating practice can help you eat according to how your mind and body feel in relation to food, not according to a diet or set of guidelines. If you are eating truly mindfully, you will likely choose the healthier option more times than not.
Here are some simple exercises you can practice to help you eat more mindfully:
Chew! Chew your food COMPLETELY. Not only will this force you to focus on your meal, but it will also help you better digest your food (digestion begins in the mouth!). Chewing thoroughly will help you slow down, thereby noticing cues that you are full. While chewing, pay attention to the food itself. How does it feel in your mouth? Is it crunchy or soft? What does it taste like? Is it salty or sweet?
Put down your fork between bites. Do not pick the fork back up until you have completely finished your prior bite. Like chewing, this is another technique to help you slow down while eating. When you slow down, you will likely stop eating before you are overly full.
Eat away from technology. It is so easy to fall into a trap of eating while working at the computer, sitting in front of the tv, scrolling through Instagram on your phone, etc. Before you know it, you plate of food is gone and you don’t even remember eating it! Next time you eat, try to make it a point to sit down at a table without any distractions. Pay attention to the food you are eating and chewing your food completely. You may find that you feel more satisfied when you are done with your meal.
Gratitude practice. Studies have shown that those who pray or give thanks before eating are more satisfied after eating. Before eating, look at the plate in front of you and say a simple “thank you” to God, the universe, or whatever you believe in. Think about where your food came from and all the work that went into getting it on your plate, from start to finish. It only takes a few seconds.
Portion your food on a plate. It’s very easy to grab a bag of chips and eat right out of the bag. When eating a snack, take out a serving size and put the rest away. When eating a meal, serve yourself the amount of food that you think will satisfy your hunger. If you had cooked more food, leave it away from arms reach. When you are done with your first serving, wait and make sure that you are actually still hungry before going back for seconds.
Have a conversation with yourself before reaching for food. Creating this habit before every meal or snack can help prevent rummaging through the pantry and having your arm deep in a bag of chips before you even know what you’re doing. Here are some examples of questions you can ask yourself:
Am I hungry?
What am type of food is my body craving?
What will make me feel good when I am done eating?
What is my hunger level?
What emotions am I feeling right now?
Have a conversation with yourself after eating. Start to recognize how certain foods make you feel. This can help you make better food decisions in the future.
How do I feel after eating?
What is my hunger level?
Did I eat too much? Too little?
What emotions do I feel after this meal?
Do you have any exercises that help you to eat more mindfully? Let me know!