Have you ever found yourself checking email, texting a friend, and watching T.V. all while eating a meal? Do you come home from a long day and the first thing you do is grab something to eat? Are there some days when you feel hungry but push through it because you’re too busy or stressed to eat? If you’re finding your plate empty without even realizing what or how much was on it, or restricting food because your feel guilty about a previous meal, Mindful Eating may be a helpful strategy for you to explore.
Mindful Eating is a technique used to help with eating habits and better cope with your emotions and physical sensations with eating. It can help you gain control over what you eat, when you eat, and why you eat. This strategy involves eating slowly and without distractions, being in tune to your body and listening to physical hunger cues, and learning to distinguish between actual hunger and emotional eating. Conversely, Mindless eating is multitasking with eating, grazing or skipping meals, eating on “auto-pilot” or zoned out, allowing food choices to be dictated by beliefs in “good/bad“ or “should/shouldn’t”, and ignoring your full or hungry signals.
So why might someone start incorporating Mindful Eating practices? What are the benefits? Mindful Eating has been shown to reduce indigestion and IBS symptoms and reduce anxiety around food and food choices. It can help you better understand and identify your emotions and allow you to enjoy and appreciate eating again. You will be better equipped to make food choices that serve you and your health goals, helping you feel more confident about eating.
Here are my Top Ten Tips for Mindful Eating
- Before you start eating, simply ask yourself if you’re hungry.
- Before your begin a meal, take 3 deep breaths and check in with your mind and body
- Practice engaging all 5 senses when eating a meal to get the full experience
- Eliminate distractions (turn off the t.v., put down your phone)
- Incorporate pauses in your meal: put your fork down after each bite, check in with your fullness level when you take a drink, or respond to “do you want more” with “I’m going to wait and see”
- Eat slowly: taste and chew your food
- Sit down while eating and eating in a place that is relaxing and brings your joy
- Know where your food comes from and be curious about it – how did it get on all the way to my plate? Who helped make this meal possible?
- If eating with other people, let them help! Kids love to turn these strategies into a game.
- Have a visual cue present at the table to help remind you to follow these strategies – it could be a quote, lit candle, or a picture that reminds you to slow down and enjoy your meal.
Eating more mindfully doesn’t cost a penny and can be done anywhere by anyone! So much focus is put on what we eat, but maybe it’s time to start focusing on how and why we eat. We all have to eat, so why not appreciate the experience as much as possible?!
Emily Betros is a licensed clinical social worker, certified health coach, and owner of Reclaiming Health, LLC. She helps clients put together an individualized plan to meet their health goals. Emily enjoys hiking, traveling, vegan-izing recipes, and spending time with her husband and daughter.