Do you remember what you ate yesterday? We’re often so busy during the fall season that we hardly realize exactly what or how much we’re eating when it’s time to fuel up.
In fact, most of us can probably admit to merging most our meal and snack times with everything else we need to do — getting ready in the morning, working, commuting, checking email, catching up on those fall TV shows, and so on. Eating is just another opportunity to multitask.
Research has shown that multitasking and distraction while eating leads to higher food intake. Not only that, but we never really get to enjoy our food when we do this, because we’re focused on something else.
Mindful eating is incredibly simple, but not easy to do on a regular basis. It has a lot of benefits to offer though — the obvious being better regulation of appetite and avoidance of unnecessary foods used to deal with emotions.
Here’s how to become a more mindful eater and balance out your diet in the healthiest way possible.
Find a Peaceful Environment
First things first — get away from or power down all the technology you love to look at while eating. That means computers, televisions, smartphones, and tablets.
If you can, head to a picnic table outdoors or to your own kitchen table. Getting yourself away from environments you associate with other activities — like your desk, your car, your couch — and into an environment meant for eating will go a long way in keeping your attention focused on your food.
Grab a Friend
Mindful eating doesn’t necessarily mean eating alone and in silence. Going out to a restaurant with others or having a meal with family at the dinner table where good conversation can happen is a great way to practice shifting your focus from the people you’re with, to the food on your fork, and back again.
If you are alone, however, put on some soothing ambient or classical music to make your environment a little more comfortable. Sitting by a window with a view is another option.
Breathe and Savor Every Bite
Hunger can sometimes feel so strong that we start wolfing down everything right away, barely getting chance to really taste each bite. Instead, start with taking a few deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth before you take your first bite to help clear your mind of thoughts and bring you back to the present.
Don’t rush through eating, and practice using all of your senses throughout your meal. Observe the shapes and colors with your eyes, take in the aromas through your nose, feel the texture and/or warmth with your mouth, and of course taste every flavor with each chew.
Go Beyond Your Mouth
Using your five senses to take in each bite will certainly help you enjoy your food more and taste it more fully, but taking your mindfulness beyond your mouth to your throat, esophagus, and stomach will help you identify when your hunger has been satisfied.
With each swallow, notice each bite moving down into your stomach as you occasionally shift your focus to feel your level of fullness. Slower eating and more chewing will likely make you feel fuller with less food in your stomach compared to faster eating and less chewing in a more distracted state.
Keep practicing! Remember not to beat yourself up if your mind wanders elsewhere. Simply bring your focus back to eating and enjoy the nourishment you’re giving your body.