Have you ever stopped to notice how distracted we are while we eat? Books, televisions, phones, work…there are multiple things stealing away our focus. Often, we quickly shove whatever we can into our mouths either while working, or as quick as we can to get back to the tasks at hand.
This is NOT the way it’s meant to be
We live incredibly busy lives – all the more reason for us to slow down and practice MINDFUL eating vs. mindless eating. Everywhere I look I see mindless eating; it’s no wonder our health isn’t where we want it to be.
What is mindless eating, and is it really that big of a deal? It’s eating without genuine hunger, often using food as a coping mechanism – like eating when you are stressed, happy, sad, bored, tired, or anxious. Mindless eating can also result from distractions like watching TV, using your phone, or working on a computer while eating. It’s basically a lack of conscious awareness during meals. Think about your eating habits. How often are you mindlessly eating your food?
When we mindlessly eat, we overeat the daily calories our body needs. When we eat more calories than we need, we store it as fat. Even if you just over ate 100 calories a day, over the course of a year, that results in an average of 10 lbs weight gain.
Let’s unpack that a bit. When we eat in front of a device, our focus is split. We never really multitask as well as we think we do. Typically, our primary focus is on what we are watching or reading on the screen, and the lesser secondary focus is just enough to be aware of where to grab the food to take the next bite. I have times when I am just as likely as the next person to do this. Times when I am trying to ‘catch up’ on something while I’m eating lunch. I will be researching something as I eat. The next thing I know, my lunch food is gone, and I don’t really remember enjoying it. When we do this we are not in tune with our bodies and are likely to miss the natural cue to stop eating.
Mindful eating is the practice of being fully present and aware of your food choices while you are eating. Awesome. How do we do that? It’s actually easier than you think. Digestion starts with salivating.
When was the last time you were aware you were salivating before a meal? Have you ever been aware you were actively salivating before a meal?
If we are not aware and present we are not going to salivate. Involving as many senses as possible is how we become fully aware and fully present. Ask yourself, what do you see, smell, hear, feel, and taste? I do this while I am prepping food, cooking it, serving it, and enjoying it. When we practice mindful eating our digestion is better, our meal is more satisfying, and we honor the emotional connection of food and how it nourishes our bodies.
Mindful Eating empowers you to
- Engage Your Senses: Visualize, smell, and savor your food before you even take a bite.
- Find Joy in Preparation: Turn meal preparation into a sensory experience, involving your family in the process.
- Use Smaller Plates: Enjoy your meals without the feeling of deprivation by choosing smaller plates.
- Savor Each Bite: Slow down and chew your food thoughtfully for better digestion.
- Cultivate Gratitude: Express gratitude for your food, fostering a positive relationship with it.
- Stay Hydrated: Distinguish between true hunger and mild dehydration.
- Listen to Your Body: Understand how food affects you physically and emotionally.
- Fuel Your Body: Choose foods that nourish and energize you.
5 Shifts To Become A Mindful Eater
- Engage Your Senses: Before eating, take a moment to fully engage your senses. Imagine the colors, smells, textures, and sounds of your meal. Visualize it, and allow your mouth to water in anticipation.
- Intentional Preparation: When preparing meals, involve your senses intentionally. Describe what you see, smell, hear, and feel while cooking. Encourage your family, including children, to participate. Raising their awareness can lead to more adventurous and mindful eating habits.
- Chew Thoughtfully: Did you know you are supposed to chew each bite about 30 times? Slow down and chew your food thoroughly. Effective chewing aids digestion and nutrient absorption while allowing you to savor each bite.
- Gratitude: Take a moment to acknowledge the food in front of you and express gratitude for it. This practice can foster a positive relationship with food.
- Listen to Your Body: Before, during, and after a meal, pay attention to how food makes you feel both physically and emotionally. This awareness can guide your food choices.
Which of these shifts are you implementing first? I’d love to hear from you!
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Kelly Calkins, BCHN®
A holistic approach to recovering your health.