The Benefits of Mindful Eating & How You Can Do it
By Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN
For most of us, we lead lives that are crazy busy. We manage family, work, hobbies, kids, friends, social events, and so much more. Because our lives have become so busy, a lot of what we do on a daily basis can be routine and often requires very little presence in the moment. There are many activities that fall into the category of being mindless, and one of those is eating.
All about mindless eating…
Mindless eating has become a huge issue in the U.S. and worldwide and as we continue to get busier and busier. With less time given in the workspace for lunch and pressure to get more work done in the same amount of time, the unfortunate reality is that the time we used to spend on ourselves, enjoying our lunch, has become time that we spend shoveling food into our mouths while we continue to do our work.
Even for people not in the workspace, we’ve also become so overly inundated with electronic devices, television shows and more that we can find ourselves paying a lot more attention to those things, including Facebook and Instagram likes, than we do on the food we’re eating. In short, this practice needs to change!
Remember Dr. Brian Wansink from Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2? He told us all about this and we are breaking it down for you in more details. (You can watch Dr. Wansink on the Today Show talking more about it too!)
What is mindful eating?
Mindful eating isn’t complicated and it doesn’t require a whole lot of time, but what it does require is attention. It requires attention to the food you’re eating, the way it looks, the way it feels in your mouth and how it makes you feel. For many of us, the aforementioned things may be too much to ask. So at a very basic level, pay attention to the food you’re eating.
4 Benefits of Mindful Eating
There’s a lot of benefit to mindful eating in addition to actually paying attention to the tastes and flavors of the foods you’re consuming.
- Helps You Slow Down
One of the biggest issues I find with clients and in general is that we are all eating SO quickly. You can be out to dinner with someone and by the time you blink a few times the food on their plate is completely gone. Eating quickly is both bad for digestion and it’s also bad when it comes to controlling the quantity of food you’re eating. Practicing mindful eating can help you tune in and pay attention to the food you’re eating, which in turn can help slow you down.
- Promotes Eating Less
Paying attention to the food you’re eating can not only help you enjoy it more, but because you’ve slowed down to tune into your food, it gives your brain and stomach more time to communicate and sense fullness, a process that takes about 15-20 minutes.
- Can Boost Satisfaction
So after slowing down and eating less, what you’ll realize is that you actually have time to listen to what’s going on inside of you, and there is a greater chance that you’ll feel more satisfied. The entire process of tuning into what you’re eating in addition to how it looks and what it feels like, can help promote feeling satisfied, and for many, this is after eating much less food than they once did.
- Helps to Better Nourish Your Body
Proper nourishment is what we’re after when we’re planning what to eat or it should be. Paying better attention to what you’re eating and planning ahead can be beneficial when it comes to providing more nutrients to your body, and usually when people start paying attention to what they’re eating, they also usually start to pay attention to providing better nutrition which is a major plus for the body.
Overall, tuning into your food can offer many major pluses! Now how to do it.
Tips for Helping You Eat Mindfully:
- Turn away from the computer when eating
- Take lunch and dinner elsewhere from your desk
- Sit down when you eat, sometimes it can be tempting to stand if you sit all day but lunchtime isn’t the best time to do this
- Plan ahead and find a few places to pick up from or plan to bring healthy food with you
- Have healthy snacks on hand like juices, fruit and nuts
- Aim to eat out of dishes instead of plastic or paper takeout dishes at work (keep a glass dish you can eat out of if your office or workplace doesn’t have proper dishes to eat from)
- Don’t let yourself get overly hungry, keep healthy snacks on hand to help promote making better choices and will also help to promote energy throughout the day
- Turn off the TV and put away electronic devices
- Have conversations with family/friends or whoever you’re eating with
- Try to put the fork down between each bite
- Try new recipes and add new spices; this can help promote slowing down and can boost enjoyment of the food and the flavors
- Arrange the food nicely on your plate; visual stimulation of the food you’re eating can also help boost satisfaction and can help you tune in more
- Take note of the color and smell of your food