If there’s one benefit of mindful eating that most of us can get behind it’s that it helps us eat less. But research shows that mindful eating can do so much more. Because it changes our brain and our behavior, it can permanently change our relationship with food and I’ve found, it makes managing your weight so much easier.
Mindful eating changes your brain and behavior:
Mindful eating is about being more present while we eat. By being more present we become more aware — more aware of our thoughts and our actions. Instead of automatically reaching for food to soothe, we get better at noticing the difference between hunger cues and emotional cues. We can then find better ways to deal with whatever is eating us — talk to a friend, listen to music, go for a walk, have a glass of water, or write down our feelings. As our dining experiences become more relaxed and enjoyable, we’re more tuned in to which foods trigger sensitivities. It becomes easier to make healthier food choices. We learn that (surprise) artichokes actually do taste great.
We get all these really great benefits, not from willpower, but just by being more aware. These new more conscious habits then retrain our brain and replace good habit for bad, with little effort on our part. Awareness is what science calls using our executive function.
It’s about focus, people and I want to share 7 ways to make it easier to focus when you eat. These tips will not only make it easier to manage your weight but will improve your digestion too.
1. Less multitasking
In our super busy lives, we’re all trying to find ways to fit more in, including while we’re eating. So I get that trying to NEVER multitask and eat may be wishful thinking, but you can make better multitasking choices. It’s better to eat and read or listen to a podcast than it is to eat and watch TV. And instead of TV every night, you can watch OnDemand and get in your TV time over fewer nights.
And you can change where you eat, which will naturally make you multitask less. Give yourself permission to take a 20-minute lunch break away from your desk; if not every day, then start with 2x a week. Make the park, an empty conference room, break rooms, and cafeterias your lunchtime change of scenery. A simple change of environment can make it easier to slow down and eat.
Another change even the busiest person can make is to eat more with others. Plan once a week lunches with co-workers and have monthly (rotating?) dinner parties. Start a food club?
2. Sit at a table
Eat like the civilized boss babe you want to become. There is surprisingly little information out there on the link between posture and the gut but intuitively we know that eating while slouched over, isn’t doing our digestion any favors. Gut health specialist Eve Kalinik believes that when we eat slouched over, we impede the process of peristalsis – the movement of food through the gut. But do we need an expert to tell us that eating at a table (if not all the time then most of the time), is better for us? It’s not just your gut health but your self-confidence too that can get a boost from eating at a table.
3. Chew more and pause between bites
If you’re used to eating a meal in 5-minutes, chewing more might not feel natural to you. With repeated practice though, it will become your new normal. A general recommendation is to chew each bite 30 times but if you don’t want to count, think of the consistency of a smoothie and try to chew each bite down to that texture.
Pause for 30 seconds to a minute between every few bites. If you think about it, pausing between bites is something we naturally do when we share conversations with our meals. While eating alone, you can mimic this habit by taking a break between every few bites. Eating slower helps you feel the cues that you’re full sooner and help you to avoid digestive problems like heartburn.
4. Creatively serve your meal
Doing things like using real plates and utensils, artfully arranging your food on the plate, and even setting the table will elevate your dining experience. As they say, it’s the little things… and these little touches say something profound: that you’re worth the effort. Yes, Queen!
5. Be grateful for what you’re eating
Gratitude helps you savor your food and to use more of your senses when you eat. As you’re eating, appreciate the color of those blueberries. Be curious about the texture of your bread. Be grateful and you’ll be more present, which is the point of mindful eating.
6. Visualize the nourishment
While you’re eating some blueberries, imagine Vitamin C making your immune system stronger. Imagine the antioxidants helping to delay aging and plumping up those laugh lines. Think about the fact that the fiber in your oatmeal is helping your heart and even helping to prevent cancer. By creating a more visual experience, we operate less on automatic.
7. Use smaller plates
Think about the portion size of better restaurants vs. an Arby’s. I say model better restaurants. If people who can afford to eat well eat less on the average, you know that smaller portions are better for you. A tip that might help you control portion size is to stay away from the plate corners by at least an inch. If you can’t do that, just use smaller plates.
To further your mindful eating education, here are some resources: