Mindful eating: How to get started

I hope that everyone had a FABULOUS Christmas! I know that I was doubly blessed this year and got to celebrate twice! Once on Christmas with my family and then Adam and I celebrated our very first Christmas as husband and wife yesterday.  It was a great day filled with cheer, board games, presents, delicious food, and Christmas shows.  I could not have asked for a better day. Now on to today’s topic!

One of the many cookbooks I got, but I was REALLY excited for this one! Love root veggies!

One of the many cookbooks I got, but I was REALLY excited for this one! Love root veggies!

Cooking my first Christmas feast. Yup I smile like that most of the time

Cooking my first Christmas feast. Yup I smile like that most of the time

I talked last week about mindful eating and what that means.  Simply put, it is experiencing your food with ALL your senses and taking the time to fully savor your meal.  So often we are distracted while eating a meal and this leads to you inhaling your food and not really remembering what you ate.  This then leads to more (read: over) eating because you do not feel like you got a full meal.  Clearly this is a problem and can lead to weight gain and numerous health problems.  My humble opinion is that we all need to practice a little mindful eating.

But how exactly do you eat mindfully? It is actually very simple, although I will warn you that it does take practice and patience.  When you are used to eating one way for so long it becomes a habit and habits can be tough to break/change.  Here are some of the steps that I personally have taken to eat mindfully and they have really helped.

Eliminate all distractions while eating. Turn off your TV, log off your laptop, put away your cellphone/tablet/whatever electronic device you have in your clutches.  When you are eating you should be totally focused on the plate in front of you.  Distractions while eating cause you to over eat and not pay attention (hence the name distractions… like I said most of this advice is pretty simple).  The one thing that I do have while I am eating a meal is music.  I like to have the radio on in the background and it is usually tuned to the classical radio station (unless it is Christmas time and then you best believe Bing Crosby is singing to me about a White Christmas).  I understand that music could be a distraction for some, but might enhance the eating experience for others.

When possible, sit at a table for your meal.  Another simple but effective tool of mindful eating is having a designated area to sit and eat all of your meals.  This allows your body to know that it is about to receive food and it can adjust accordingly.  I know that a lot of you are eating on the go because you have super busy lives and I understand that sitting down at the kitchen table for every meal might not be possible.  But try to make at least one meal a sit down meal.  Once you start this habit, you will really notice how just sitting at a table helps to put your focus on the delicious meal you are about to eat.

Try to be involved in the process of putting a meal together.  I totally get that not everyone loves to cook or be in the kitchen making a meal.  Some people find it a chore or too hard or have the tendency to burn water whenever they are trying to make food.  However, you do not have to make the whole meal by yourself to be involved in the process.  Help cut veggies, make the sauce, pick a wine to go with dinner, set the table or even just spend time in the kitchen observing the meal being put together.  Getting involved in the whole process really allows you, the eater of food, to be more connected to the food and get more out of the act of eating.  When you are more aware of your meal, you are better able to appreciate eating that food.  Which leads into the next step…

Use all your senses when eating.  Don’t just limit your eating to your sense of taste.  Yes that is one of the most important senses, but you really miss out on a lot if you are just shoveling food in your mouth barely tasting anything.  Smell all the wonderful aromas of your meal before you take a bite, or look at the bright colors of the veggies on your plate.  Really listen to the sizzle of that hot steak as it comes your way to the table.  Touching your food might be frowned upon in some situations, but notice the texture of that pasta as you eat or feel how creamy your mashed potatoes are.  All of these actions make eating so much more than the simple act of putting a fork to your lips.  It will also allow you to feel more satisfied with less food. And finally…

SLOW DOWN.  It is surprising how fast some folks eat a meal.  I kid you not, I have seen a family sit down to dinner and finish in 7 minutes flat.  A meal should not be along the lines of a hotdog eating competition.  It takes your body at least 20 minutes to register that it has eaten something, so try to make your meal last at least that long.  If possible try to stretch it out even longer.  Take the time to savor your food and take note that you are eating.  Also with this last tip, try to eat just one helping and not go back for seconds.  The longer you take to eat, the more you feel satisfied with just that one helping of food.

These are just some guidelines for mindful eating and there are a lot more.  There are actually whole classes and seminars dedicated to teaching the “art” of mindful eating.  But you don’t need a class to start incorporating these steps into your daily eating.  Try one or two and don’t get discouraged.  You may feel silly taking at least 20 minutes to eat or that it is ridiculous to smell your food, but these things WILL help you to eat mindfully and in the long run eat better and find more satisfaction with less food.

I will be taking a short break after this post because Adam and I are leaving for our honeymoon on Sunday! I am super excited to head to Jamaica with him and can’t wait to tell you all about it! So enjoy your New Year and I pray that it is a wonderful year for all of you!