Do you skip through meals and rush through your food? Maybe you eat lunch at your desk, mindlessly munching on a sandwich whilst you catch up on emails? Or perhaps you’re more likely to flop on the sofa for a TV dinner, or snack whilst you scroll on social media? I get it — life is busy and can be tiring at times. I’d be lying if I said I’ve never eaten lunch at my desk. But the problem with mindless eating is that it’s easy to disconnect from the experience making it harder to tune into your hunger and fullness signals. When this happens, you’re more likely to unconsciously overeat.
If you want to avoid that lapse in concentration between your first and last bite, then try these six mindfulness tips to help you slow down, appreciate and savour your food. The intention is to step away from autopilot eating, and instead bring awareness to the experience and its associated sensations.
6 tips to help you stop mindless eating today
Tip 1 Avoid distractions
As much as possible aim to focus only on the eating experience. That means switching off the television and putting away your phone [or switching to airplane mode]. If you can, sit down at a table to eat your meals. When we avoid distractions, we are better able to tune into our body’s hunger and fullness signals. On the other hand, research indicates that distractions lead to mindless eating which, in turn, may lead to weight gain.
Tip 2 Take a mindful pause
Before you start eating, take a few slow, deep breaths to allow your body to enter the relaxed state it needs for digestion. Try this conscious breathing technique as taught by Thich Nhat Hanh.
We are better able to absorb nutrients when we are relaxed and fully focused on the eating experience. You can also use this moment to acknowledge the effort that went into bringing the food to your plate.
Tip 3 Be present
Bring awareness and presence to the table. Take some time to appreciate all the sensations — sight, smell, taste and texture. Look at your food and appreciate the colours and the variety on your plate. Smell the different aromas. Appreciate the taste and texture when you chew your food, savouring the flavours with each bite.
Tip 4 Choose satisfying meals
You might automatically choose low calorie meals or those that you consider “healthier”. Yes, it’s important to pay attention to the nutrients in your meals, but it’s also important to consider your relationship with food, and how you listen to your body when you eat.
In fact, research shows that when you enjoy and savour “indulgent” food, you feel fuller more quickly. That’s because you stop producing ghrelin [the hunger hormone] and this signals your body to stop eating.
Tip 5 Chew your food well
Chewing is important because it starts the process of digestion in the mouth. The more you chew, the easier it is for your whole digestive system. Chewing thoroughly also promotes satiety and ensures regulation of appetite.
A good recommendation is to chew your food until it is a mushy consistency. This, alongside putting down your fork between bites to slow down, will help you listen for the sensation of fullness as it starts to emerge.
Tip 6 Check in with yourself
It’s easy to just eat what is presented to you on your plate, regardless of whether you’re still hungry for that food. So, a good mindfulness technique is to check in with yourself periodically whilst eating.
You can ask yourself:
Am I enjoying this meal? Do I still want to eat? Have I had enough? Do I feel satisfied?
It’s also useful to check in after the meal itself. How did the meal make you feel — energised or lethargic? Do you feel clear headed? How does your body feel? How full is your stomach and how content do you feel?
By connecting with this latter part of the eating experience, you can better understand how foods make you feel.
These six techniques can help you bring awareness to the whole eating experience. They will allow you to become more aware of your body, hunger and fullness sensations and the impact on your energy levels. These actions will also help you break your habit of mindless eating by helping you slow down and savour your food and the eating experience.
It may not always be possible to use these techniques every time you eat, however over time they will increase awareness of your body before, during and after eating. My hope is that these techniques will help you feel better connected with your body’s wants and needs so you can slow down and enjoy eating your food.
What other techniques have you used to improve mindfulness at the dinner table?
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