Mindful eating is a practice that’s becoming more popular in an effort to improve eating habits and reconnect with what’s on our plates. It involves eating with attention, employing introspection and awareness of how a food really tastes and how it makes you feel.
I’ve struggled with bad food habits practically my whole life, but it was only after I started eating mindfully that I was able to shed them. In saying that, I don’t completely restrict myself from eating bad food all the time. Eating mindfully isn’t a diet, it’s most certainly a lifestyle change. It’s all about balance, treating AND nourishing yourself by creating a healthy relationship with food. Here’s 5 ways that I found most helpful.
Set the mood.
Did you know using smaller and more decorative plates can help you naturally serve yourself less while still feeling satisfied? Research also shows that using taller, narrower glasses versus wider, shorter glasses leaves us feeling like we’ve had more. Your environment can have a huge impact on how much you eat, for example, set the table with flowers for a calm and positive meal. Appreciating the appearance of food sets the scene for mindful eating and helps you become more aware of your eating.
Slow it down.
It takes at least 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that it’s full, so take your time and stretch out your meals. Try putting down utensils between bites to give yourself the chance to savor the food. Another strategy is to use your non dominant hand to force you to slow down your eating.
Sit down to eat.
Formalising your dining experience can help draw your attention to your food and your eating habits. Make it a rule to always sit down without distractions (no TV, computer, phone, etc) when you eat. Grabbing a snack standing in front of the fridge, or over the counter is hardly memorable and you’re more likely to overindulge, and feel unsatisfied.
Pay attention and savor your food.
Most importantly, mindfulness is all about paying attention to your food. By paying attention to meal time we transform a typically routine and mundane activity into an exercise in peace and tranquility. Use your senses and pay attention to how your food looks, smells, and tastes and ask yourself questions such as:
– Does it taste sweet, savory, salty, spicy, sour, or bitter?
– Is the texture hard, crunchy, soft, or smooth?
– Is the smell sweet or sour?
– What color and shape is the food?
– Is the temperature hot, cold, icy, or warm?
It’s also to notice how YOU feel before, during and after the meal, and how it has impacted your mind and body. Has this food left you feeling energized or sluggish? What parts of the meal helped you to feel this way?
Despite your religious or spiritual beliefs, take a moment to appreciate how grateful you are for being able to engage in this meal, and how it’s nourishing your body. When food is abundant, it’s easy to take it granted. When we take our food for granted, it’s easy to stop paying attention.