For many people, eating has become just another task on a mile-long to-do list. We do it in front of computers, with smartphones in hand, in the car as we speed between various appointments and errands, and while watching television. The result is that we tend to take in calories that we aren't really noticing.
When you are trying to lose weight or just eat more healthfully, it pays to be mindful about taking in food. This means that you focus on eating while you are doing it, giving it your full attention, with the intention of nourishing your body. Here are some ways to combat the trend of busy eating and eat more mindfully.
Make Meals into Events
As much as you can, make meal times sacred. Create a calm space in which to eat your meal free from distractions, perhaps playing soothing music, and focus on your food. You don't necessarily have to have a long period available in which to do this, you just need to have time that is set aside for nothing but eating.
In general, most meal times at home should happen at the dinner table without television or other electronic devices around. Focusing on each other and the food is not only a great way to eat mindfully and develop close family
relationships, but it can also improve your digestion.
Practice Good Portion Control
Part of eating mindfully is being aware of how much you are eating. Portion sizes in America have grown as the years have gone by, and many people don't know what a healthy amount of each food group is.
There are many ways that you can mindfully approach portion control. Calorie counting, programs that use points or containers to keep track of the amounts of each food group that you take in, or following a visual reminder system such as this one can all be helpful in monitoring and planning your portions.
A helpful tip when applying portion control is to use a smaller plate. Ditching your industrial-size dinner plate can automatically help you be more mindful of the amounts of food that you're eating. Try a plate that is 9 inches across or smaller, and be thoughtful about how you fill it. In general, roughly half of your plate should be filled with vegetables and a little fruit, 1/4 with lean protein, and 1/4 with whole grains. Add a bit of healthy fat for a balanced meal.
As you practice eating mindfully, you will start to be more aware of which foods fill you up faster and keep you full longer, such as high fiber vegetables and high-quality fats. It will also be more readily obvious to you how much of certain foods you should be eating. As you keep your attention on your food and your body's cues while you are eating it, you will learn proper portion sizes automatically.
Chew and Eat Slowly
Taking your time chewing helps your saliva do more of the work of breaking down your food before it gets to your stomach. This can make the food's nutrients easier for your body to absorb.
Eating more slowly also allows your stomach and brain time to communicate with one another, so you realize you're full faster. This means you'll be less likely to overeat.
As we will discuss below, eating slowly also allows you to focus on how the food affects your senses.
Put Your Fork Down Between Bites
Setting your fork down on your plate between bites can help you eat slowly and more mindfully. Eating more slowly can help you enjoy your food more and ultimately eat less.
Putting your utensils down while you are chewing is a great way to remind yourself to slow down, chew well, and enjoy your meal.
Keep a Food Diary
It is extremely helpful to many people to keep a journal of what is eaten every day. This helps keep you accountable for every bite, lick, and taste that you have. Otherwise, it can be easy to overlook a pretty significant amount of calories that you're taking in, sabotaging your weight loss efforts.
An app such as this one can be extremely helpful for both keeping track of what you're eating and counting its calories: Calorie Counter PRO with Food Diary by MyNetDiary - For Diet and Weight Loss.
You can also use a device such as a Fitbit to help you keep track of both the calories that you take in and those that you use.
Focus on Your Senses While You Eat
One way to eat mindfully is to focus on your senses while you are eating. Chewing slowly and eating without distractions, as mentioned above, can help you focus on how the food affects you as you eat it.
First, enjoy the smells and sight of the food on your plate. Admire the vibrant colors and earthy, tangy, or savory scents. Next, think about how the food tastes while you chew it, trying to identify the ingredients if you can. Consider the textures that you can feel in your mouth. Immerse yourself in the experience of eating and bring your mind as much as you can into the present moment.
Be Grateful for Your Food
Before you begin eating, center your thoughts on the food and think about how grateful you are to have it. You may say a prayer if it's part of your belief system or send good thoughts to the farmers, animals, and plants that provided you with your meal.
It's also a good idea to spare a moment to think about and be grateful for how the food is going to nourish your body, allowing you to live, play, and work to your full potential. Thinking about food in this way, as nourishment, helps you separate it from other reasons for eating such as boredom, sadness, and stress.
Focusing on gratitude for a few minutes before you begin eating helps connect you to your food, bringing your attention to it and helping you tune out distractions.
Practicing mindfulness surrounding meals may not only help you lose weight and achieve better health, but it can also help you relax and manage stress. Simply taking the time to notice, appreciate, and savor your food can reap big benefits in your life.
Eating mindfully is one of 18 proven weight loss tips that we put together for our readers. You can see them all in this article: "18 Proven Weight Loss Tips."