What is mindful eating? To put it simply, it is a process of become more conscious of what you eat. It teaches you to pay attention to the food you put in your mouth. And with awareness, comes a host of other potential benefits from weight loss to a better emotional relationship with food.
Mindful eating is such an important part of a positive relationship with food. With mindful eating, you’ll not only be more aware of your natural cues of hunger and fullness. You’ll likely eat slower, get more joy out of what you eat, and have a more fulfilling eating experience.
Ready for mindful eating? Here are 8 ways to realistically get there.
Start your meal with a nourishing word of thanks
Food isn’t just flavor. It’s also life. When you eat, you’re building the cells of your bodies. And giving thanks can help you eat from a place of honoring self.
Being thankful for your food is something you can do for you. Take a moment to be reminded of its nourishing qualities. This will help you transition to mindful eating.
Count how many times you chew
Chewing is such an important part of eating. Not only does chewing help break down your food and the digestion process. It helps slow you down, taste more of your food, and makes the eating process last longer.
Many of us eat by focusing on the next bite. We never actually get to taste what we’re eating now. Counting your chews will remind you to taste your food. Which will help your get more joy from what you eat.
Use the wrong hand
Anything that helps slow you down will help with mindful eating. So if you favor your right arm, use your left. And vice versa of course.
Do this one meal a day for a week. And notice how slowing down affects your appetite, your food intake, and your mental satisfaction.
Keep a meal journal
Do this one at every meal. The point is to slow down and become aware of how food makes you feel. Divide your meal journal into three sections.
In the first section, write down how you feel (hunger/fullness) at the beginning of the meal. Then stop when your plate is half empty, go back to your journal, and note your hunger/fullness again. And ask yourself if you should keep eating or if you’re done. Then do this a third time and hour later to see if the food you’re eating is leaving you stuffed, hungry immediately after, or just right.
Use a smaller plate
Most dinner plates are huge. And these huge plates can make you lose perspective of how much you really need to feel full. So try using a smaller plate.
You can always go back for seconds. This isn’t about calorie counting or deprivation. It’s about not eating mindlessly, but eating until you’re truly full.
Eat away from the television, smartphone, and computer
I’ll admit that I’ve been guilty of this one many times. But electronics take away from the value of what you’re eating. You can pay attention to your show’s plotline, or you can focus on what you eat.
So turn off the tube and look at your food instead. You can enjoy your food without it fighting for focus. Part of mindful eating is actually maximizing your enjoyment from the simple things.
Use all 5 senses with your food
Want to get the most enjoyment out of your meals? Really incorporate your entire being. And this means involving all your sense. If you’re only focusing on taste, you’re missing out.
Really take note of the aroma. How does the food feel in your mouth? Does your food sound crunchy as you chew, or is it quiet and soft? Really take note.
Set a relaxing mood
Your body needs to be in a relaxed (parasympathetic) state to properly digest. But many of us eat in an excited, rushed or heightened state. This is not what nature intended. And this doesn’t allow for mindful eating.
Discover what setting a relaxing mood means to you. Do you light candles before you sit down? Do you dim the lights? What about putting on soft soothing music or even white noise to block ambient sound?
There you have it: 8 ways to practice mindful eating. Start with the one that seems easiest. As you move into mindful eating, work on habits that might be a little more uncomfortable. The gift of being mindful is one for your palette, your waistline, and for your soul.