Distractions, lack of focus and speed are all barriers to eating with mindfulness. Here’s why that matters.
Weight loss isn’t only about what you eat – it’s also about why you eat. A growing body of research suggests that being aware of how we eat may be every bit as important as what we eat. Eating with mindfulness can help you understand the reasons behind your eating habits and make small changes to transform your relationship with food.
In today’s busy world, our eating is quite often anything but mindful.
Do you ever eat:
- In your car?
- At your desk while you work?
- Over your kitchen sink or countertop?
- In front of the television or while surfing the internet on your laptop or phone?
- Even when you aren’t hungry?
- On-the-go while never sitting down to eat a meal?
- An entire meal without even noticing you had eaten it?
Here are a three ways to introduce mindful eating into mealtimes:
1. Eliminate distractions when eating.
Silence your phone, step away from the computer and shut off the TV. Consider making mealtime an electronics-free zone. This will allow you to concentrate on the taste of your food, how it is making you feel as you eat it, and eating only until you are pleasantly full. Try sitting at the table, focused fully on your food.
2. Notice how you feel before, during and after you eat.
Tune in to what physical sensations relating to hunger and emotions you are experiencing. Are you extremely hungry before you eat? Are you eating to the point that you feel too full, or just full enough? Are you feeling stressed, sad or hurried? Are you enjoying the taste of what you are eating? Tune in to these feelings when eating. Being aware is the first step in making positive change.
3. Eat more slowly.
Remind yourself and your family that mealtime is not a race. When we eat more slowly, not only do we enjoy the meal more but we also tend to eat less. When eating quickly, we often don’t feel full until we have eaten more than we need to because it takes some time to digest the food. Try focusing on savoring and enjoying meals. Look at the color of your food, its shape, texture and aroma. Think about where the food comes from and practice gratitude for the food you have. Put your fork down in between bites and breath deeply to help slow yourself down.
Remember, mindful eating is less about what we eat, and more about why and how we eat. Tuning in to our the rituals of eating more thoughtfully can help us to eat healthier, eat the right amount and enjoy food and the rituals of meal times more fully.
Stacey Kendrick, MS, is a health educator with more than 20 years of experience in wellness and population health. She spent much of her career at Vanderbilt’s Faculty/Staff Wellness Program and currently works in Strategic Marketing at Vanderbilt. She is mother to two adult daughters. In her free time, she teaches healthy cooking classes, runs, gardens and enjoys backyard bonfires.