7 Ways to Eat More Mindfully

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  35 comments   :  29,154 Views

What do you do while you eat?
 
If you watch television, work on your computer, page through a magazine or pay your bills while enjoying your lunchtime chicken salad or grilled salmon dinner, you're not alone—but you're also not doing your waistline any favors. Studies have shown that people who ate while distracted consumed 69 percent more than those who ate with no distractions.
 
The key is to learn mindful eating, which means focusing your attention on the foods you select, prepare and eat. As you become more aware of the taste and texture of each bite, you'll be more likely to slow down and savor the foods instead of shoveling them in on autopilot.
 
Most people don't realize how important mindful eating is to their physical, emotional and even spiritual health," says Lorraine Miano, health coach with Infinite You Health. "We often lose the sense of connection and awareness to the nourishing benefits of our meals. Instead, we look upon them as stressful—especially if we're in constant dieting mode or worrying about cravings or body image obsessions."
 
Try using some of these mindful eating tips from the experts to stop the mad dining dash and start being more aware of what and how much you're consuming.
 

1. Learn to recognize hunger.
 

In many cases, mindless eating is driven by reasons other than physiological hunger, such as stress, sadness or boredom. "It can be tough to tell the difference between actual physical hunger and emotional hunger," says Alissa Rumsey, R.D., owner of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition & Wellness Consulting. "Learning to recognize non-hunger triggers for eating is an important step in mindful eating."
 
The next time you find yourself reaching for a snack, ask yourself, "Would I eat a carrot right now?" (Not a fan of carrots? Substitute a healthy food you enjoy.) If the answer is "yes," eat the carrots (or other food) to provide nourishment. If the answer is "no," then you’re likely experiencing emotional hunger.
 

2. Eliminate distractions.
 

Before each meal, start by turning off all technology. All of those emails, television shows and phone calls can wait until you've finished eating. "At home, I have an electronics bowl where all my children put their phones when we have dinner and the television is turned off," says Toby Amidor, nutrition expert and author of "The Greek Yogurt Kitchen." "This gives us an opportunity to enjoy the lost art of conversation."

Instead of outside distractions pulling you away from your meal, focus on the foods on your plate: the tastes, textures and colors. "Use your senses to truly taste, feel, smell and even touch your food," suggests Miano. "Take the time to notice how each of your senses responds to the food you are eating. Chew slowly and savor each bite." One of the benefits of eating slower is that you'll pay better attention to how your hunger lessens and then subsides as you eat.
 

3. Shop at farmers markets.
 

When you shop at a small market, you have more opportunities to meet the people who are selling the food you are eating. "Studies show that you are much more likely to have conversations at these smaller markets, which can lead to learning more about the foods you are eating," says Ken Immer, president of Culinary Health Solutions. "Once you have a story about the foods and ingredients, you’ll be more likely to make a conscious choice and develop a more mindful cooking and eating practice."
 
SparkPeople dietitian Becky Hand agrees that farmers markets offer ample benefits. "Take time to talk to the vendors or the actual farmers," she suggests. "Understanding the hours of labor, skills used and resources needed to feed the masses increases one's appreciation for the food." Not sure where to start? Check out our beginner's guide to farmers markets.
 

4. Change your route or routine.
 

A great deal of mindless eating is triggered by habit. Immer suggests mixing up your routine to avoid automatic indulgences. For example, if you always walk past a coffee shop and stop in for a sugary pastry, choose to walk a different way on some days. That way, the pastry will become an occasional treat instead of a daily habit.
 

5. Keep your refrigerator and pantry organized.
 

Many people get frustrated when they open a full pantry or refrigerator, which leads to unconscious and reactive choices. Immer recommends designating one shelf of the fridge for leftovers and use the "one in, one out" rule. "Once the space is full of leftovers, if you’re going to add something new, you have to get rid of something else, either by throwing it away or by getting it ready for your next meal. That way, you keep the clutter down and force yourself to make choices."
 

6. Think about the source.
 

Rather than focusing on the food once it's on the plate, health coach Liza Baker from Simply: Health Coaching prefers to think about its origin from the very beginning of the food chain. For example, knowing how and where your food was grown, as well as who raised, harvested, processed, packed, transported, prepared and sold it to you are all important considerations.
 
"Focusing on SOLE food—that which is seasonal, organic, local and ethical—is good for not only your physical health, but also the health of the environment and the local economy," says Baker. "Committing to eating in this manner is not easy, but it will make you think about every bite you take."
 
Not sure where to start? Baker suggests reading labels, buying more at your local farmers market or choosing locally labeled foods in your grocery store.
 

7. Carry your own flatware.
 

Immer recommends purchasing a nice set of bamboo or other portable flatware that comes in a handy travel pouch. "When ordering at a quick-serve restaurant, pull out your flatware," he suggests. "You’ll feel more at home and will likely eat slower and more mindfully."
 

Bringing Mindfulness to the Table
 

The key to mindful eating success is to start with small, simple steps. Implement easy techniques to eat more slowly, experience the flavors of food more intensely and seek pleasure in the entire eating process.
 
"This level of focus is difficult to maintain," says Hand. "You probably won’t be able to do it 100 percent of the time. But like all new habits, it's a work in progress." Hand suggests setting weekly goals as you increase the number of meals and amount of time you are able to dedicate to your mindful eating practice.


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Comments

  • 35
    I really like the bring your own flatware recommendation. I work with my hubby's band and we eat on the run often. I need to remember that we all need time to eat mindfully and peacefully! - 4/8/2017   10:45:59 AM
  • 34
    I am working on mindful eating. Starting with no distractions at meals. I appreciate the other ideas. - 3/27/2017   8:35:15 AM
  • 33
    I Like these ideas but i wish that i had the willpower to follow them. - 3/15/2017   10:07:11 PM
  • 32
    I have found this works well for me. - 3/14/2017   1:22:00 AM
  • 31
    I will practice this one today and really focus on it T-day!! Thank you. I freeze and can a lot of my produce, the rest is from the local market, grown within 50 miles. I bake and dry my own bread for stuffing, desserts,etc. NOw to extend the eating part of it... - 11/22/2014   4:00:44 AM
  • 30
    Really good blog on mindful eating, Becky. I would love to meet your Mom. Give her a hug for me (-: - 11/17/2013   5:59:31 AM
  • 29
    I'd love to shop at a Farmer's Market but there are none that I know of at this time of year. - 11/16/2013   11:44:55 AM
  • 28
    I love this and while I have implementing trying to chew slowing at least 25 times for each folk full I put in my mouth. These mindfulness eating is greater and I will incorporate them one at a time. Thank you Thank you!!!!!!! - 11/15/2013   3:09:22 PM
  • 27
    My Mom is 87. I think there is more appreciation too because of the depression. But your blog made me smile. :) - 11/13/2013   1:47:23 PM
  • 26
    Fabulous! We are blessed! - 11/12/2013   12:07:21 AM
  • 25
    Thanks For These Instructions. I Try To Mindful Eat But Sometimes I Find Myself Rushing And Sometimes There's Really NO Rush Needed lol. The Most Mindful Meals I Have Are The Ones Where I HAVE To Chew My Food Thoroughly Such As Breakfast Of Oatmeal With Added Ingredients Such As Seeds And Walnuts. I Think About The Textures And The Taste. I Am Amazed How Different The Taste Can Be From One Bag Of Walnuts Or Sunflower Seeds To The Other. Or The Sweetness Of Frozen Strawberries Which I Also Like To Use In My Oatmeal. I LIke The Idea Of Shopping And Thinkig About Where Everything Comes From. Gives Eating More Meaning Than Just Taste. I Will Start Eating More Meals With This In Mind. Makes For A Greater Appreciation Of Food. :))) - 1/26/2013   8:25:29 PM
  • 24
    I agree with post number 11 "tortuous" comes to mind but I do agree with the "give attention to your hunger". - 11/19/2012   8:47:47 PM
  • 23
    Thanks for sharing. Have a happy Thanksgiving! - 11/19/2012   9:28:21 AM
  • 22
    Great article. I really appreciated you writing this. - 11/19/2012   7:11:54 AM
  • 21
    I try to always be mindful, but it doesn't mean I stop eating. LOL - 11/19/2012   12:23:35 AM
  • 20
    No, I have not done this, but it sounds like a wonderful thing to try. It would be very enlightening. Your Mom sounds like a very special individual, and you must delight in dining with her. - 11/18/2012   11:20:19 PM
  • 19
    I, too, am learning the art of mindful eating--especially when going outside my regular routine. I have learned not to taste test quite as much as I cook. I take extra time to prepare my meal and make that part of the new ritual of eating and it is even a time with family that is replacing eating/social time. Slowing down my eating and savoring the taste and texture has been a challenge, but am beginning to emerge as a mindful eater. Thanks for the article, I am sure it will help many. - 11/18/2012   10:48:51 PM
  • 18
    Lovely article, Becky. I wonder how many people today really are like your mother! We all live in such a fast paced world we just don't take the time to enjoy every bite. Maybe that is why there are so many overweight folks today - they don't realize they have eaten and are full. - 11/18/2012   8:57:26 PM
  • 17
    I loved this topic. I personally add that: if I truely "give thanks" before I begin eating, I enjoy every bite much more. I really loved how you touched upon soil to table. I hope you write more on this subject. Sincerely, Julia - 11/18/2012   6:43:11 PM
  • 16
    I give thanks to you, and to a number of other folk who share their food values. - 11/18/2012   5:37:51 PM
  • 15
    Excellent blog! it is so easy for me to fall back into the habit of eating mindlessly. Thanks for the reminder to slow down and enjoy the food I'm eating. - 11/18/2012   12:39:59 PM
  • TIENDAKARMA
    14
    Great article! Just thinking about it makes me feel grateful. Thanks! - 11/18/2012   10:46:10 AM
  • JOYFULROAD
    13
    I am a speed eater - and will be trying to put some of this into action - old habits die hard - but they do die in the end - this one is on notice lol
    - 11/18/2012   10:14:05 AM
  • 12
    Easy to say, but hard to do, especially for the rest of one's life. Not enough time to "ponder" over life's little issues at this point in time............wonder if people in prison ponder over their food, since they don't have work to do or people to take care of?? - 11/17/2012   9:43:59 PM
  • 11
    This article reminds me of a tortuous way to control your unmindful eating habits... LoL After each bite tuck your hands under your behind and chew each bite not just squish and swallow. Thank you for the remider to savor our food ( even the junk food and desserts of course) I believe the more you savor the less you'll overeat/ binge. - 11/17/2012   2:43:18 PM
  • 10
    I've slowed down quite a bit since I take much smaller portions. I make them last so that I don't finish before my family otherwise I'm more likely to grab additional food to eat with them. - 11/17/2012   8:20:03 AM
  • 9
    i like to say grace and thank God for the food in front of me. I find it helps me to appreciate what I HAVE as opposed to that which I think I NEED. - 11/16/2012   10:14:12 PM
  • 8
    Really appreciated this. - 11/16/2012   9:45:17 PM
  • 7
    Wow! What a timely piece. My biggest fight still is with eating too fast. Maybe it came from growing up and knowing that, with 6 others at the table, I had to hurry to make sure I got enough...whatever it is, I haven't been in that situation for way too many years to still be exhibiting that behavior. I will make a conscious effort to slow down. Thank you for a great blog! - 11/16/2012   5:33:14 PM
  • 6
    This is a very good article. When I get sad and depressed, every therapist tells me I need to be 'more mindful'. But that is hard to figure out how to do. This gives excellent tips! Thanks!! - 11/16/2012   3:38:41 PM
  • 5
    Great post!! Thank you for reminding us of this :D - 11/16/2012   2:03:52 PM
  • 4
    I like this sort of article much better than the articles I usually see that encourage restriction of the food on Thanksgiving. It's a holiday. Live a little! - 11/16/2012   1:58:19 PM
  • 3
    I need to work on mindful eating. I need to slow down and enjoy more. Thanks for this post on appreciating those who do mindful eating. - 11/16/2012   1:38:30 PM
  • 2
    I really liked this blog post. My husband is similarly mindful about food, and sometimes it drives me crazy, but I'm learning to be more this way, especially since starting my weight-loss efforts. I would much rather enjoy the food on my plate and think about how good it tastes and how valuable the nutrition is than watch TV or drift around on the internet while I eat. Life's too short for poor-quality, rushed meals. - 11/16/2012   1:34:17 PM
  • 1
    I love this. Thank you for posting it. Breaking everything down and really centering oneself is so important in this age of fast-paced everything and instant gratification. It might seem like overkill to think of all these things in so much detail, but, I know for me, when I do this, I am so focused, happy, and at peace. Ah, serenity :) - 11/16/2012   12:43:28 PM

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