Most of us are not good at mindful eating. We grab a cup of coffee and donut on or way out the door in the morning and then power down a sandwich at our desk for lunch. And if we’re eating alone, we’re usually trying to multi-task while eating, catching up on our social media feeds or the news from our smart phones. And how many of us eat at least a few meals a week in front of the TV?
So what is mindful eating? Put simply, it’s focusing on the food we’re consuming, savoring it and taking the time to appreciate the taste and smell of it as we eat. The benefits are clear. By paying closer attention to our food as we eat it, we tend to consume fewer calories, make more nutritious food choices and experience better digestion.
Here are a few tips for putting mindfulness to work at the dinner table.
- Know your body’s hunger signs. Are you eating because you’re stressed, bored or because you are hungry? Too often we find ourselves heading to the refrigerator or vending machine, not because we’re hungry but for emotional reasons. Is your stomach growling? Are you feeling weak or lightheaded? What are your bodies’ hunger signals? Mindful eating means waiting for those signals rather than using a trip to the break room in search of pastries as a way to put off working on that spreadsheet.
- Just eat. With so many distractions readily available at our fingertips, hardly any of us just focus on eating without multi-tasking, especially when we’re alone. Sometimes we are so preoccupied with other tasks while eating, we don’t even remember what it was we ate.
- Eat slowly. Most of today’s meals are easy to gulp down in a hurry but it takes a while for the brain to realize the body is full (which is why many of us overeat.) By slowing down, we give our bodies a chance to communicate with our brains as well as give our brains a chance to listen more intently to our bodies’ signals. And by slowing down we can pay closer attention the sensory aspects of our food and appreciate it more fully.