With the approach of a new year, you’re probably making resolutions to improve your health and well-being. That’s great! Unfortunately, tackling a broad, overwhelming goal like “lose 50 pounds” or “give up eating sweets” isn’t realistic. Instead, resolve to take small, manageable steps to become more mindful towards food and eating.
What does it mean to eat mindfully?
“Mindfulness” refers to being aware of what is going on within oneself and within one’s surroundings on a moment-by-moment basis. It involves paying deliberate, non-judgmental attention to one’s internal processes and external environment.
Often, our thoughts wander away from the present moment. We may be preoccupied with what happened an hour ago. Or we’re worried about what might happen tomorrow or what we need to do next week. Mindfulness encourages us to notice these preoccupations and then to gently bring ourselves back to the present. Mindfulness promotes balance, choice, personal empowerment and acceptance of what is.
Be Mindful of Your Eating Habits and Food Choices
You can apply mindfulness to many areas of life, including your eating habits and food choices. Most of our thoughts about healthy eating tend to focus only on what we eat. We pay much less attention to how we eat. Yet a growing body of research indicates that changing our attitudes and practices around meals and eating rituals may be as important as the foods we put in our mouths.
Mindful eating intensifies the enjoyment of the eating experience, increases recognition of hunger and fullness cues, and enables us to know what and how much we’re eating. And it helps create a positive lifelong relationship with food. Eating will be more enjoyable, and you’ll naturally eat less.
One of the best ways to engage in mindful eating is to slow down. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to decide you’re full. To avoid rushing through a meal or snack:
• Increase the time spent chewing. It slows your pace and can help prevent overeating. Shoot for chewing each bite 20 to 30 times.
• Put your utensil down between bites. It forces you to focus on the food in your mouth rather than on the next bite. If you are eating food that doesn’t require a utensil (a sandwich, an apple, a slice of pizza), place the uneaten food back on your plate after each bite.
• Sit down with your food. Food that is eaten in the car, bedroom, or while cooking or standing tends to be eaten hastily. It is also often a forgettable experience, so you may find yourself eating again soon afterwards.
The concern I hear from patients when I recommend mindful eating is that they “don’t have time.” Mindful eating, like most worthwhile endeavors in life, is a process. It doesn’t have to be all at once. Start by eating one meal or snack mindfully each day. Then build to additional meals. It takes time and effort to create a new, healthy habit.