Is this a scenario you can relate to?:
You sit down in front of the television or computer with a bag of chips or pint of ice cream intending to eat only one serving, but before you even know what’s happened the entire bag or pint is gone. And you have no real recollection of tasting or even enjoying it. You seem to have eaten the whole thing on autopilot.
This is how many of us eat every meal of every day, without any awareness of the food or how much we eat of it. This is mindlesseating, and it is the cause for so much overeating and weight gain in this country.
What is Mindful Eating and How Do I Do It?
Mindful eating is exactly what it sounds like – it is a practice of becoming more aware of what and how much you eat. It is not a fad diet, which are short-sighted approaches to eating, and there are no specific recipes to follow.
Instead, mindful eating is a long-term approach to eating. It’s about forming a relationship with your food, not being controlled by food. When you eat mindfully, you taste and savor each and every bite.
If this sounds like something you’d like to try, here are 4 ways you can begin practicing mindful eating every day:
1. In Sight – In Mind
You know the old saying, “Out of sight, out of mind?” Well the opposite is also true – the food we see we tend to want to eat. If you have boxes of cookies and donuts on your kitchen counter, you are going to grab one (or more) when you pass by because your blood sugar is low, and you need energy. You’ll have an entire donut eaten before you even realize you ate it.
Your mindfulness must start in the grocery store. Stop buying unhealthy foods laden with salt and sugar, and opt for healthier foods and snacks like fresh produce and nuts. Strategically place these healthy options around your home and kitchen so you can’t help but see them first the next time you reach for something to eat.
2. Stop Multitasking
How often do you just eat and only eat? Stop eating in front of the television, and stop eating at your computer. And if you absolutely must work through your lunch break, try alternating between tasks so you can focus on one entirely at a time.
For instance, focus on writing and sending that email, then switch tasks and spend a full minute or two on eating your lunch, savoring each bite. Then switch to another task, and back to eating and so on.
3. Slow Down
Unless you’ve entered a pie-eating contest, there’s no rush. Too many of us wolf down our food, then wonder why we feel so sick. Pace yourself. In your mind as you chew, repeatedly tell yourself to slow down. Eventually slow, purposeful eating will become an ingrained habit, but in the beginning you need to train yourself.
4. Gauge Your Hunger
How hungry are you when you begin to eat? Are you even hungry at all, or are you eating as an emotional response to something?
Before you dive into that large pizza with the works, gauge your real hunger level. On a scale of 1-10, if your hunger is a 3, one slice should suffice. If you’re not hungry but in a bad mood because the boss is making you stay late, don’t eat the pizza. Instead, lift your mood with a non-food treat like a funny Youtube video you know you like or by mentally planning out all the enjoyable things you’re going to do after you get out of work.
Simple. Not easy, per se, but it will become easier with practice.
Try to incorporate these tips into your everyday life. You will be surprised how mindful eating can change your entire life, from the size clothes you wear, to your health, to how in control you feel in other areas of your life.
If your mindful journey helps you to uncover certain food or emotional issues you’d like to explore further, please contact me. I have worked with many people who have food addictions or use food as an emotional response and I’d be happy to discuss how I may be able to help you.
Harini Sukumaran is a Qualified Mental Health Professional and certified Ayurvedic Practitioner who is passionate about helping children to become less stressed by giving them and their parents tools, support and encouragement. Her passion also includes helping Women suffering from trauma, depression, anxiety and Pregnancy/Postpartum mood disorders. She received her Master’s of Science in Counseling Psychology and Master’s in Marriage, Couple’s and Family Counseling with special concentration in Children (Play Therapy), Women and Families.