Here’s an exercise to test this theory: Where did you eat your last meal?
Was it at your computer, in front of the TV, in the car or with your phone?
Do you remember how your food smelled, tasted or made you feel?
Our busy lifestyles often dictate that our meals are an afterthought, often hurried and un-enjoyed.
Mindful eating has its roots in Buddhist teachings. And while we all can see the value of spending 20 minutes studying, appreciating, tasting, chewing and swallowing 3 raisins, ain’t nobody got time for that.
But there is still a lot of wisdom to be pulled from this concept that will serve us even in our busy, modern world.
What if I told you mindful eating was the anti-diet, diet?
Mindful eating isn’t about depriving yourself. Many who practice mindful eating find that they eat far less food while still feeling satisfied. This natural ability to slow down and recognize your body’s fullness signals is your own inherent calorie counter, no Fitness Pal needed.
Mindful eating isn’t about giving anything up. Your taste buds won’t suffer on your anti-diet either. Slowing down to truly appreciate the tastes and sensations of food means your meal is more pleasurable.
Mindful eating isn’t about counting calories, macros or micros. When you slow down and really reflect on your food, you will naturally find yourself drawn to more nutritious, whole foods rather than processed, convenience foods.
Prepare for mindful eating:
It starts at the grocery store. Do you prepare a thought-out list or do you wander up and down the aisles, mindlessly adding in whatever you see? While it might take some extra time, plan out your list with intention for the food you will purchase. When you are at the store, really consider the nutritional value of everything you place in your cart. Reflect on the food and how it will enhance your life.
If you often find yourself cleaning your plate even when you are full or taking more than you feel hungry for, consider using smaller salad plates and bowls rather than larger dinner plates. You can even use smaller cutlery to help slow down your eating. Try not to leave serving bowls in front of you as you eat; keep those extra helpings out of sight.
If you tend to eat in a hurried manner, so fast you hardly realized you’ve eaten anything, then consider eating with your non-dominant hand or use chop sticks as a way to physically slow yourself down.
When to eat mindfully:
Try to eat when you are hungry, but not starving. When you skip meals or wait too long in between eating, your body goes into desperation mode. When you do finally eat, you’re more likely to eat faster than your brain can keep up with and you will find yourself uncomfortably full from overeating.
It takes about 20 minutes after your first bite of food for the brain to send out the signal of fullness. Set aside at least that amount time, preferably more, to immerse yourself in your meal.
If you can’t seem to find the time for mindful eating at every meal, start with just one or two meals a week. Plan to take the time to fully savor these meals with no distractions.
How to eat mindfully:
Eliminate all distractions like phones, Netflix, computers, Alexa — anything that could disturb your concentration. Put phones on airplane mode and leave them in a different room.
Try to start the first five minutes of your meal in silence. As you take in the sight, smell and taste of your food, think about how the food got to your plate. The people that worked to grow and harvest your food, people that transported it to your local grocery store, the work you did in order to prepare it. Express gratitude for all these processes that enabled your meal to make it to your plate.
When you start to eat, try to be present in the moment. What does the food look like? How does it smell? How does it feel on your tongue, what textures and sensations are you experiencing? How does it taste? Use all your senses to immerse yourself in the pleasure of eating your meal.
Mindful eating is not only the anti-diet, diet. Mindful eating is also a time for us to take a break from all that noise and distraction. So take the time to show up for yourself a little bit and really savor that meal with all your senses. You’re worth it.