Written by Dr. Eric Perry
“Mindful eating means simply eating or drinking while being aware of each bite or sip.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh
In our fast-paced society and the ever-present need to multi-task, many of us have forgotten the joys of eating. I personally know what it’s like to be so busy I forget to stop and smell the spaghetti :). This was written as a reminder to myself. Here are 5 tips on how to eat more mindfully.
1. Recognize if you are truly hungry
Learn to recognize the physical cues of hunger and when you are full. By paying attention you will avoid overeating and eating for other reasons other than hunger. Some of us are emotional eaters and eat in response to certain emotions such as sadness, loneliness, and boredom. Others might eat in response to external cues such sight or smell. Our sense of fullness has been somewhat skewed by the large portions we receive from restaurants and fast food places. Being mindful of eating only when you are truly hungry and stopping when you are full will put you back in charge of your body. You may be surprised at how little food you actually need to feel satisfied.
2. Don’t skip meals
Do try and plan regular meals and snacks. When hunger strikes we may find ourselves reaching for the most convenient and fast meal. This could come from a vending machine or a fast food place which might not be the wisest or healthiest choice for our body. By having a set schedule it will allow us time to prepare our meals and give us enough time to be truly present while we eat.
3. Appreciate what you are eating
Next time you are enjoying a meal, take a pause between bites and pay attention to the flavors, textures, smells, and color of the food. Eat with all of your senses! While eating, ask yourself some of these questions, “What does this taste like?” and “How does the texture feel in my mouth?” Take a moment and reflect on how the food makes you feel. Be grateful for the farmers who grew the food and the sun that ripened the fruit or vegetables. By creating these pauses of gratitude you will be more connected to your body and to the food you are eating.
4. Slow down
Remember, it’s not a race. Studies have shown that it takes 20 minutes for your brain to register that you are full. If you race through your meal there is a likelihood you will consume more than you need. In this case, it is better to be the tortoise than the hare! Here are a few ways to slow down:
a) Try eating with your non-dominate hand
b) This is one of my favorites, eat with chopsticks
c) Take small bites and chew slowly and thoroughly
d) Put your fork down between bites
e) Say grace or express your gratitude halfway through your meal
5. When eating, just eat
Try to make a ritual of your mealtimes. Avoid distractions. This means turn off the TV, computer, cell phone and put down the book or magazine. Focus solely on the act of eating. Learn to eat silently and think about what you are eating. If you have children this one may be impossible, but perhaps try to make a game out of it! Whoever can eat quietly the longest is king of the hill! Lastly, studies have shown many benefits of being fully present while eating. Some of these benefits include weight loss, less likelihood to overeat and binge eat and less anxiety about your body and food. so next time you sit down for a meal, remember to eat with all of your senses! Bon Appetit!
The thoughts expressed in this blog post are my own and are not meant to create a therapeutic relationship with the reader. This blog does not replace or substitute the help of a mental health professional. Please note, I am unable to answer your specific mental health questions as I am not fully aware of all of the circumstances.
Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
M.A. in Clinical Psychology
B.A. in Psychology
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