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How Can You Become a More Mindful Eater?

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Do you associate food and eating as positive experiences? Can you appreciate that food is used to nourish the body, acknowledge where your food comes from, and in turn, feel as if you have formed a healthy relationship with food and eating? I often think of children and how they have an innate ability to eat when they are hungry, usually stop when they are full, take their time to really experience textures, new foods, and really enjoy learning during mealtime.

So, why do we seem to lose this ability when we get older? We eat in a rush, on the go, or just to satisfy our emotions. These behaviors are learned and may not benefit us at all. Yet, we still find ourselves doing these things.

Let’s talk about some of the things that we can all do to eat more mindfully:

  • SLOW DOWN! Try chewing slower and putting your fork down in between bites. This will allow us to really taste, savor, and appreciate what we eat. This can also help us with satiety and feeling full so that we might avoid overeating.

  • Make a habit of eating meals at the table. That way, you can really enjoy the event, savor the meal, and separate the act of eating from other things that may occur.

  • Speaking of other things that can occur during mealtime, it is best to try to eliminate distractions during mealtime. This may mean avoiding TV, computers, tablets, or even silencing cell phones while eating. This will allow you to think about what you’re eating and to be aware of portion sizes.

Mealtimes can become a full sensory experience

  • How does the food taste? - Salty, sweet, bitter, savory, or sour?

  • What about the smell? - Does it enhance the meal? Hopefully so!

  • Is the meal visually appealing? - The art of food plating can really make mealtime more

enjoyable and enhance our desire to eat whatever we’ve prepared.

  • -Does the texture and temperature give you positive feelings? How much better does a warm, gooey homemade brownie taste than a room temperature, hard store-bought brownie taste?

Lastly, consider implementing a hunger scale for yourself:

Green means, “I’m hungry” - I’m ready to eat, my stomach is grumbling, and I feel like I need energy.

Yellow means, “I’m satisfied, neither hungry nor full” - this is often a good place to stop eating most days. You will feel much better at this level than if you are still hungry or over-full.

Of course, the “over-full” level is red. This is where you are quite uncomfortable, very lethargic, pants are tight, or you just feel a bit sick. We definitely want to avoid this level whenever possible.

Another important thing to think about is: “Why are you eating?” Are you actually hungry, or are you sad/mad/tired/lonely/stressed? If you aren’t actually hungry, it is a good idea to try to distract yourself from food. You can take a walk, read a book or magazine (probably not a food-related one), call a friend, or enjoy another fun hobby.

Be gentle with yourself. These habits don’t have to be all or nothing, and if you take small steps toward larger goals, you will find that with practice and time, you’ll start to feel more “mindful” during mealtimes and snack times. Try not to be too hard on yourself as “self-compassion” is very important. No food should be labeled “bad”, and if you do feel this way, you might consider trying to figure out what it is that is really triggering these feelings. Most of all, have fun preparing your meals and enjoying the wonderful dishes that you make. Food should be fun, nourish our bodies, and also allow us to slow down a bit and recharge our minds. You may even find yourself feeling more connected to family or friends during your journey.

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