We’re often told HOW to eat…what types of foods, how much of them, what combinations, and what time to eat them – all with the intention of creating more healthful habits.
But, rarely are we guided in how to eat food…with mindfulness. This can be just as important in the creation of a more “health-full” habit!
Eating as mindfully as we might on vacation, for example, is not realistic for many of us, especially with work, busy families, physical routines, and all the other daily distractions.
Here are seven simple ideas to help you establish more mindful eating habits, and perhaps start to reconnect the body and mind again.
1. Tune in to your body’s signals
Rather than just eating on emotional cues (different for each of us, like sadness, anger, frustration, loneliness, stress or even just boredom) we can learn to tune into and be better listeners of our body’s actual hunger signals.
For example, is your stomach growling, is your energy low, are you feeling a little lightheaded, or even ‘hangry’?
2. Put food on a…plate
Too obvious? Think about this: eating out of a bag is not a very mindful practice! So, get in the habit of placing even snacks on a plate before eating them. This helps you to take notice of exactly what and how much you’re actually eating.
Also, acknowledge the time, effort and passion you put into creating your meal – consider all the ingredients, and the preparation and intention involved in getting the food from stove to plate.
3. Sit….at a table
Now that you’re eating from a plate, continue “formalizing” your gastronomic experience by always sitting at a table.
This helps to pull your attention back to your food and to your eating habits. It has also been shown to dramatically reduce overeating – especially for those who tend to eat in front of the TV.
4. Absolutely, positively NO devices at the table
Now that you’re sitting at a proper table, designating the first few minutes of a meal for quiet, mindful practice can be beneficial – for everyone at the table. This includes putting away the devices and turning off the TV.
5. Slo-o-o-o-w down (and chew!)
Slowing down is one of the easiest, and most effective ways we can get our body + mind to coordinate in their signals of what we really need for nutritional purposes.
The body actually sends its “I’m full!” signal about 20 minutes after the brain – a little glitch in human physiology and also why it can be easy to overeat. But, if we slow down, we can give our body a chance to catch up to our brain, hear the signals properly, and eat the right amount.
Chewing more, and more slowly, is probably THE simplest and most effective way to begin developing the habit of eating mindfully.
6. Put down that fork!
Putting your fork down between bites of food reinforces your enhanced chewing habit, rather than mindlessly picking at your plate or preparing to shovel in your next bite. Yet another opportunity to really taste your food!
7. Make it more difficult to feed yourself
Making things more difficult is a great way to force yourself to pay attention to a more intentional act of eating – you can apply this to many areas of your life!
One way to up the challenge is to eat with your non-dominant hand. For 90% of us, that’s our left hand. While this may seem tedious to do at every meal, try it for breakfast or maybe just at snack time – or maybe at a dinner with friends for some entertainment value!
So, there you have it – seven super easy, but actionable ways you can start practicing mindfulness, especially when you’re eating. Your whole body will benefit from simply slowing down, and being more intentional and present while eating.
Tapping into ALL of your senses is a great way to be fully present while eating – because it isn’t just about taste. There are so many things to experience when we eat food — colors, textures, smells and even sounds. Let’s put this concept to the test!
The Mindful Raisin Challenge
- 3 plump, juicy raisins
How to eat raisins…mindfully:
- With raisins in hand, begin to explore them with all of your senses. Imagine that you’ve never seen a raisin before. Discover everything you can about them!
- Turn them around with your fingers and take note of the colors.
- Observe the texture – any softness, hardness, coarseness, or smoothness.
- Put the raisins up to your nose and take note of any aroma.
- Place the your raisins close to one ear, squeeze them or roll them around, listening to any sounds.
- ..the really fun part! Slowly put the 3 raisins in your mouth, noticing the sensation of your mouth beginning to water as you start to chew them.
- Chew the raisins slowly and with intention until they are virtually disintegrated.
- When you feel ready to swallow, note the sensations of swallowing the raisin – for example, sensing it moving down your throat and into your esophagus on its way to your stomach.
- Visualize this happening, and the energy and nourishment that this intentional eating is going to provide your body.
- Take a moment to congratulate yourself for taking this time to experience truly mindful eating!