Five Ideas to Help You Eat More Mindfully
Eating mindfully is a “practice”. Improving skills and practices, necessary components in any nutrition plan, can lead to achieving goals. More importantly, learning useful skills stay with you and can be employed as needed throughout one’s life. In this post I’ll explain how this important practice works and give you some advice on how to build it into a regular habit.
Mindful eating, in practice
When we eat mindfully our focus settles on the taste, texture, sounds, and feelings of slowly chewing our food. This awareness extends to the sensation of the chewed food (aka bolus) travelling down our esophagus (the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach) and the feeling of satiety as the food ameliorates our hunger. As we work through our meals, we notice when we’ve had enough. Those feelings, that awareness, tells us this, loud and clear.
Eating mindfully allows our neuroendocrine system and digestive system to work seamlessly with our eating environment, as well as among our previous expectations, social cues, and beliefs about eating and food, to nourish us. Yet, many of us fail to appreciate this inborn ability, losing track as we become adults. Moreover, we train ourselves to eat what we are served (super-size meal, great deal!), or simply clear our plate. We habitually look down at the empty package of food we can’t recall finishing (where did all those chips/chocolates/peanuts go?).
Ways to practice eating mindfully
As mentioned, regular practice leads to skill development. Reach your goals by employing skills. Below are some specific actions one can do regularly and consistently to improve their mindful eating practice.
- Eat with no distractions- Turn off (or remove) electronic devices, such as phones, TV’s, tablets, radios, remote controlled drones (you get the idea), from the table or eating area, . Done? Good, now, even more politically correct distractions such as books, newspapers, and magazines need to go too. Is this a bit too much of a leap? Start with a single meal, see how you do.
- Pretend you are a Judge – on Chopped and you must rate the food you are eating. What does it taste like? What does it remind you of? Give it a rating, compare. Are you eating with someone? Share the idea, see if you both can do it together. Take turns describing the taste and texture of the food you are eating. Compare your ratings. Does the chef get “chopped”?
- Rate your hunger– On a scale of 1-10, how hungry are you as you sit down to eat? (10 being hungriest, one being not). Give yourself a rating, write it down. Do this again after you’ve eaten. Can you describe your rating? Give each number you chose a descriptive term, maybe you we’re a 9 before you ate and you decide to call it “famished” or “hangry”. Once you are done eating, rate again, hopefully the number has gone down (as presumably you are much less hungry, or in your case, hangry), you give yourself a “3” and call it “imminently satisfied”, or anything that seems right to you. Keep track in a notepad or dry erase board for a couple weeks. See what patterns emerge, and what, if anything, may need to change about your eating and dining habits so that your hunger and fullness are where you want them to be.
- Point it out– While you are eating, notice and declare what things affect your eating speed and enjoyment. What time is it? Who are you with? Where are you? What are you eating? Which meal is it? How did you get here? Are you in a rush, if so why? Pick a meal and practice this each day for a week or two. See what thoughts emerge, which things you are pleased with, and which of things you’d like to change.
- Slow down– I’ve never met a mindful speed-eater (though I am sure someone out there will claim it can be done), for most of us, slowing down will increase our awareness of what we are doing. Try timing the meal or doing something between bites, like putting down your utensils or taking a sip of water. Are you eating with family? Try pacing yourself to the youngest child (they are usually pretty slow), in fact, make it an opposite sketch race (the slowest eater wins). Slowing down can be combined with others above, for instance take time to describe to your eating partner (or just out loud to yourself) in between bites, some of the things mentioned in item #2 above.
Give some of these a try, start small. You can combine one or more together at one meal. Share the idea with your friend, colleague, partner, or roommate, see if you can elicit some support. Remember, practice leads to mastery of skills, which leads to achieving goals.
Eating mindfully is helpful for everyone
Whether you are someone who just wants to live well as you move forward in life, or someone looking to build a bullet-proof body, eating mindfully will allow you to guide your eating habits via internal cues (rather than strict subjective external cues). Eating mindfully is an essential daily practice.
Ready to make a change in your diet/eating habits? Better yet, ready to improve your life? Check out my remote, holistic, Nutrition Coaching program!
Published by mattktraining
I am currently the Owner of my soloprenuerial company Matt K Training. Through my fitness and nutrition programs I help adults develop skills and practices that help them eat, move, and recover well. Over the past 20 years, in various roles such as a Personal trainer, Exercise Physiologist, Clinical Researcher, and Health Coach I have helped hundreds of adults reach their health and physical performance goals. When not working, I enjoy active pursuits such as playing right field for the Charlton Giants (in a 38+ competitive baseball league), playing tennis, hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing. I also enjoy indoor activities such as playing strategy board games, reading and discussing science fiction literature, dabbling with my guitar, finding creative ways to eat oatmeal, and being a good dad.