Chances are you’ve probably eaten on the go, in front of a screen, at your desk while working, or in the car before. While eating, you pay no attention to your food and before you know it, it’s gone. In the process, you don’t know how the food tasted, felt in your mouth, or made you feel. This is such a common occurrence and encompasses the opposite of what mindful eating is.
Mindful eating is being present during mealtime and acknowledging the feelings and sensations that come with eating. It’s a concept meant to make you aware of your hunger levels, how the food is making you feel, and if you’re enjoying it. Having a more mindful relationship with food can make you more intuitive to your hunger and fullness cues, prevent overeating, improve digestion, and increase your chances of having a pleasant experience while eating.
Here are some of the best ways to practice mindful eating:
1. Try not to wait until you’re overly hungry to eat. This makes mindful eating more difficult, and your body’s instinct is to eat as much as you can when starving.
2. Avoid screens while eating. It’s common for people to watch TV or check their phone while eating. When you do this, you take away from the experience and enjoyment of food. For example, it’s hard to notice the flavor and texture of your favorite meal when you’re focusing on a movie. Turn off the screens and focus on your food.
3. Take small bites, thoroughly chew your food, and set your fork or spoon down in between bites. Digestion starts in the mouth with both the chewing of the food and the enzymes in your saliva. Scarfing down food can make digestion in the stomach and intestines more difficult.
4. Use all your senses when eating. Acknowledge the appearance, texture, smell and taste of the food. This brings appreciation and awareness to the food you’re eating and can make the experience more enjoyable and something to look forward to, rather than a task.
5. Focus on how the food makes you feel. Ask yourself if the food makes you tired, energized or full. Then ask yourself, “Is this food enjoyable?” If the food you’re eating isn’t serving you, try something else.
6. Make eating a positive and structured experience. Do so by choosing to eat at a table and by setting the table with a napkin, utensils, plate and cup, or eat with friends and family when possible. Try to incorporate mealtimes into your daily schedule so you don’t feel rushed or pressured when eating.
Mindful eating probably won’t happen overnight. Start small and choose one or two of your favorite tips to incorporate and go from there.