We’re a society of people that eat on the go. We eat in our cars. We eat at our desks. As a whole, we rarely devote time to enjoy the eating process. The rushed way in which we eat contributes to stress and poor digestion. Stress is also a major contributor to weight gain. Naturally, de-stressing the eating process is a great place to start for mindfulness and stress reduction.
Outcomes Of Mindful Eating
• Increased awareness of social and emotional influences on your decision to eat
• Decreased emotional eating
• Decreased overeating
• Greater self-awareness of how different foods affect your body
• Reaching a stable weight, and possibly losing weight if you’re overweight.
Mindful eating essentially allows you to take control over your food choices through increased awareness around what affects your decision to eat or not eat.
Many people are intimidated to start eating mindfully because they think they don’t have the time to “slow down and enjoy their food.” You’re too busy for that too, right? As with most things in life, we tend to take an all or a nothing approach. In general, I guide people away from that, especially when it comes to healthy eating. And mindful eating is no exception. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. We can start with simple things, which is better than making no effort at all.
5 Simple Ways To Become A Mindful Eater
1. Take A Deep Breath
We go, go, go, all day long and then when we sit down to eat, we tend to keep rushing even if we don’t need to. Taking a couple nice cleansing deep breaths before we begin eating can help put us in a more relaxed state during the eating process which helps us to be more mindful. It also promotes good digestion to be in a more relaxed state when we eat. Even if you’re busy and on the go, you should have time for two deep breaths.
2. Ask Yourself Simple Questions
A good way to figure that out is to ask yourself if you would eat a [fill in your favorite fruit]? Because if you wouldn’t eat an apple or whatever food you’ve decided on, then you’re probably not really hungry. You’re just wanting to eat to fill some other void. That gap could be boredom. It could be a little bit of anxiety or stress. It could just be that the food is close by, and you saw it, and that visual stimulation prompted a desire to eat. If the answer to the question is, “No. I’m not really hungry,” then try to identify what it is that you do need, or what is triggering your desire to eat, and find a solution that will address that specifically.
In some situations, the answer will be apparent, and in others, it’ll be a little more difficult. Hiring a registered dietitian or a therapist that has experience working with eating behaviors might be something of benefit if you’re having difficulty identifying and changing your eating triggers.
3. Start Reading Food Labels
Part of mindfulness is knowing what is in your food. Oftentimes, we just choose items without really knowing what we’re eating. To become more aware and present to the eating process, start paying attention to what you’re actually eating.
Read the ingredient list. Read the nutrition facts, and educate yourself on what things you need to look for on food labels. Be very wary of buzz words that you see on the front of the label, because oftentimes they are not regulated food claims and end up making the food sound much healthier than it actually is.
Something else I like to do if I have the time, is to look at my food and actually imagine the journey that that food went on to get to my plate. Where was it grown? How did it travel? How was it processed? It’s really kind of a fun experience and brings about a greater sense of appreciation for your food.
4. Pay Attention To Your Tummy
It’s very easy to feel a little grumble in your tummy, but look at all the work in front of you, and hit the override button, saying to yourself, “I’ll just eat a little bit when I finish this work.” Then, once you finally get to sit down and eat, you overeat because you are too hungry.
It’s very hard to be mindful and present of your eating when you have primal instincts kicking in telling you to eat, and eat now because you’re too hungry. I can’t stress enough how important it is to feed your body when it’s hungry but not too hungry and to stop eating when you’re satisfied but not full. I can tell you from personal experience, as well as feedback that I’ve heard from many of my clients, is that if you start eating before you’re too hungry, it’s easier to stop before you’re too full.
5. Slow Down The Eating Process
Studies have shown that when we eat slower, we feel more satisfied with our food, and we show fewer signs of hunger up to two hours after the meal. That’s obviously a good thing if you’re trying to manage your weight. It’s also a good thing if you don’t want to get interrupted from your work for frequent food breaks.
In general, it’s better to set aside dedicated time for eating, slowing down, and actually enjoying the eating process than to continue eating while you’re working.
The bottom-line here is that mindful eating doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can fit it into your current lifestyle, food preferences, and dietary needs. Much easier than going on a diet… right?