Let’s chat about a little nutrition trick called “mindful eating.”
Of course this means eating, mindfully.
To elaborate on that a bit, it’s making a point to slow down and appreciate what we’re eating; it’s learning to listen to our body’s cues on hunger and even about what it wants to eat; and it’s a way to break out of unhealthy food-related habits.
Why try it?
1- Get out of your head. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the complicated and conflicting nutrition info out there. Like when to time your eating for a workout, or whether you should cut down on carbs/fat/sweets, or how many hours before bedtime to stop eating… the list is virtually endless. By practicing mindful eating, you can get a hold of your eating habits without letting it take over your life.
2- Enjoy your food more. Be honest: how much did you enjoy that Bojangles breakfast biscuit you ate while driving to work? I mean, REALLY?
3- It’s simple to do. You can keep this up even when you’re on vacation, or out to dinner with friends. Mindful eating doesn’t require you to count calories, or add up points, or log your meals.
4- Stop feeling like you “got off track.” Spoiler alert: there is no track, and you haven’t fallen off any sort of wagon if you ate mac n cheese for supper last night.
5- It’s a learning tool. Through mindful eating, you may discover foods or habits that contribute to making you feel icky. Maybe onions are the culprit to the heartburn you’ve been feeling. Maybe eating late at night affects your sleep. Maybe you don’t actually LIKE those chips.
In the book Traveling Mercies, author Anne Lamott describes one of the assignments her therapist gave her when she was learning to overcome bulimia: learn what hunger feels like, then learn what it feels like when you’re satisfied. Even those who have never struggled with disordered eating may ignore these cues because of habits developed over the years.
This ONE seemingly little habit can help you make big changes for the better. If you give a go, you might be shocked just how much of a game-changer this can be.
4 ways to start to eating mindfully:
1) Avoid distractions while eating.
TV, smartphones, checking your email, working through lunch: these all draw your attention away from what you’re eating and how you’re feeling.
2) Slow down.
Notice how long it typically takes you to eat, then add maybe two minutes to that time. When that slightly slower pace begins to feel normal, add a few more. Aim to work up to 20 minutes for each meal. Engaging in conversation with family or friends at the table naturally helps slow your eating. Making a point to sip water during your meal helps, too.
3) Notice how you feel.
Before you sit down to a meal, pay attention to how you feel. Are you hungry? How hungry? Are you eating just because it’s mealtime? There’s no wrong answer; just pay attention so you can better learn your body’s cues.
As you eat, notice when you begin to feel satisfied. It takes a bit for the stomach to send it’s “full” signal to the brain, so try to stop when you reach about 80% full to prevent feeling stuffed.
4) Savor your food.
Oh, look: another way to practice gratitude! Consider the people who prepared your meal (even if that was you), the spices used to flavor it, the people who grew and harvested the food, the area where it came from, the rain and sun that helped it grow. Appreciate the taste, the texture, the smells of the food.
REMEMBER: Nutrition is not one-size-fits-all. Figuring what works best for YOU is an ongoing experiment; this is why diets and prescribed meal plans seldom work long term, and why it’s worth developing healthier habits that will last you a lifetime. Want help figuring all this out? Let’s chat.