Eating Mindfully Without Losing Your Mind
Ommmmmmm….mg where did my dinner just go?!
When I sat down to eat dinner the other night, I had a giant plate of warm, nourishing, healthy food in front of me. Then my cell phone rang. Ten minutes later, I found myself staring at a sad, cold, empty dish. I don’t even remember taking one bite. And, to make matters worse, I was still hungry. Ugh.
As a personal trainer, wellness coach, and yoga teacher, I practice mindfulness and meditation daily. Obviously, as you can see from my example above, I’m not perfect! When it comes to meals, I can get caught up in multitasking, fall victim to stress, and forget about mindfulness.
Mindfulness is focusing one’s awareness on the present moment without judgment. Mindful eating (or intuitive eating) aims to reconnect us more deeply with the experience of eating our food. It’s about slowing down, savoring each bite, and getting more enjoyment out of your food. Eating mindfully also improves the body’s digestive response and helps you become more in tune with your body’s reactions to food. Over time, mindful eaters find that they instinctively eat the ideal type and amount of healthy food for their body without dieting or overthinking.
Need more than that to give up your on-the-go breakfast, multitasking work lunch, or screen time during dinner? I know, I know, I did too. Here are some facts about mindful eating for us data-driven overachievers:
- People who eat when they're distracted or under stress tend to eat more and weigh more
- Eating until full and eating quickly triples your risk of becoming overweight
- Eating mindfully results in fewer calories consumed and more favorable levels of appetite-regulating hormones, which may help weight loss
- Eating more slowly leads to improved satiety (feeling fuller)
- Prolonged chewing at lunch decreases snacking later on in the day
- Prolonged chewing helps prevent diabetes
- Mindful eating optimizes absorption of nutrients and digestion. Some research has shown that when our attention is not focused on eating, the digestive process is 30-40% less effective than it should be, which leads to gas, bloating, and discomfort
Ok, now that we’re all convinced, here are 5 simple steps you can take to eat more mindfully:
Pause & Breathe
Before your meal, pause. Become aware of your breath, your surroundings, and the food that is in front of you. During your meal, take time to repeat this process as a way to stay mindful and aware. You may even want to try taking 3 purposefully deep breaths each time you pause. Think of it as a mealtime meditation.
Eating is not a race! Taking the time to slowly enjoy your meal is one of the healthiest things you can do. You’ll chew your food more completely, give yourself more time to digest, and will be more likely to notice when you are truly full. Plus, you’ll probably find yourself noticing smells and flavors you might have otherwise missed if you were in a big rush.
Put the phone down, close the computer, turn off the TV, and focus on your food. Pay attention to the smell, taste, temperature, and texture. Synch your mind and your mouth and block out distractions to maximize the pleasure you get out of eating your food.
Know Your Food
Part of mindful eating is strengthening your relationship with food, so get to know where your food comes from and how it affects you! Connect with the story behind your food and you may find you’ll have a deeper appreciation for where it came from and how it got to you. Learn about and choose healthy food that is most supportive of your wellness goals.
Know Your Body
Take time before, during, and after eating to notice how your body feels and responds to food. Notice the sensations of hunger, satisfaction, fullness, and over-fullness and when they occur. Become more aware of how certain foods affect these sensations during your meals, as well as how you feel throughout your day after eating. Over time, you may start to notice you instinctively reach for or avoid certain foods as you become more in tune with your body’s reactions.
Mindful eating takes practice, so don’t stress if you have a meal like my disappearing dinner every once in a while! Reset, take your time, savor the flavor, and recognize everything your healthy food brings to benefit your mind, body, and spirit!
Melissa Weinberg, CPT, RYT, CHC
 Journal of Epidemiology, April 2015
 British Medical Journal, October 2008
 The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, August 2011
 The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, January 2010
 Appetite, March 2013
 PLOS One, June 5, 2013
 “Slow Down and Savor the Flavor.” Harvard Heart Letter, November 2008; “The "Almond Study” (Press Release IFT Annual Meeting & Food Expo in Chicago)
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