When I first learned about mindful eating, I was a bit intimidated – being someone who loved to eat and typically ravaged my meals, I was a little scared of actually sitting down with my food and taking my time to eat it. But as I began incorporating small steps like chewing and deep breathing, my relationship with food quickly began to change. Not only was I choosing whole, healthy foods, but I was actually learning HOW I should be eating them, which helped me create an awareness that allowed me to tune into the needs of my body and listen to which foods and portion sizes made me feel best.
Whether you have just begun experimenting with mindful eating or have been at it for quite some time, here are 5 ways that you can deepen your relationship with the food you are eating and become more mindful as you sit down for every meal or snack.
1. Focus on Your Food
This might sound obvious, but I can’t tell you how many people, clients and friends struggle to actually focus on their food while they are eating (myself included!). Often people pay attention to their phones, watch tv or even do work at their desk while they should be fully enjoying their meal. When you are engaged in other activities while eating, you can miss out on feeling satisfied from your meal, which usually leaves you looking for something else to eat shortly after you’re done eating.
At your next meal, try eating without any distractions. Put down your phone, turn off the tv and/or enjoy your lunch somewhere other than at your desk. Look at the food you are about to eat. Where did it come from? How many beings were involved in getting it to your plate? What flavors do you notice? How does it smell? Keeping the focus on your food will help you notice how much you are eating and will also allow you to feel more satisfied.
2. Sit Down
Living in a culture that is constantly on the run, we often need a reminder to sit down and relax while we eat, which is how our bodies were built to digest. When we are eating on the run, our bodies are in “fight or flight” mode, which slows down our digestive process because energy is needed elsewhere. Constantly being in this state while we are eating is when we can see things like indigestion, heartburn and constipation begin to arise.
Sit down. Relax. Focus on the food in front of you. Smell it. Taste it. Enjoy it! You will be more in tune with how much food you actually need while supporting your body in efficient digestion.
Tuning into our breath can be a quick and effective way to come back into the present moment and tune into our body, making deep breathing is a wonderful tool to utilize throughout your day, especially while you are eating. I like to try and take 3 deep breaths before enjoying a meal. This allows me to take a pause, check out how my body is feeling and really pay attention to the food I am about to eat.
Taking a few deep breaths also calms the body and the mind, which reduces stress and strengthens the digestive process.
Did you know that you should be chewing each bite of food until it is liquid, which is about 20-30 times per bite!? It’s true! I realize that this may sound overwhelming, but that is what our teeth are for! Digestion starts in our mouth, so when we don’t take the time to properly chew our food, our digestion is often compromised.
Chewing thoroughly also slows down your eating pace, which can help you better determine when you are full and prevent overeating.
5. Check In
About half way through your meal, check in with yourself and notice how you are feeling. Are you getting full? How much more food do you want to eat to feel satisfied? Getting in the habit of checking in encourages you to re-evaluate how much you are eating and how much more you want to eat. Often, at the beginning of a meal when we are hungry, we might grab a bigger portion than we need. Checking in can help recognize that and help us realize that just because its on our plate doesn’t mean we need to finish it.