Mindful eating doesn’t sound sexy, but I swear, it’s the coolest thing going when it comes to managing your weight. Why? Because once you have the hang of it, it makes managing your weight almost effortless! I’m not kidding. Mindful eating has been scientifically proven to change your brain, which means it changes your behavior so you permanently change your relationship with food. PERMANENTLY!!
How mindful eating changes your brain and behavior
Because we have to slow down to eat mindfully, we benefit a lot just from doing that. We get better at noticing the difference between hunger cues and emotional cues and at noticing which foods trigger sensitivities and discomfort. When you start to eat mindfully, you may soon find yourself asking, Do I really want to keep eating gluten if it bloats me?
Some other pluses: with mindful eating, our dining experiences become more relaxed and enjoyable and our digestion improves. We begin to see things we used to miss and it becomes easier to make better food choices. We become conscious of what’s not working and this greater awareness is what retrains our brain.
What I love about mindful eating is that it doesn’t require willpower. Nada. Zilch. You’re just focused on being more aware.
Here are some habits to help you with your mindful eating practice:
1. Sit at a table
Eat like the civilized boss babe you want to become. There isn’t a lot of information out there on the link between posture and the gut but intuitively we know that eating when you’re slouched over, isn’t doing you or your 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.
2. 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. Pausing between bites is something we naturally do when we eat with others. When you’re eating alone, try to mimic that habit by taking a break between every few bites. Slower eating helps you notice the cues that you’re full sooner and may help you to avoid gas, heartburn and other digestive problems.
3. Creatively fill your plate
Using real plates and utensils and setting the table will elevate your dining experience, that’s for sure. As they say, it’s the little things, right? Something else I love (although I’m no pro at it yet), is artfully arranging the food on my plate… as a chef would. These little touches say something profound: that you’re worth the effort. Yes, Queen!
4. Be grateful for what you’re eating
Gratitude lets you focus and helps you savor your food 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.
5. 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 auto-pilot.
6. Use smaller plates
Think about the portion size of better restaurants vs. a restaurant like Arby’s. We want to model the portion size of better restaurants. If people who can afford to eat well eat less on the average, you know that that is 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 for you to check out:
Christine is a Life Strategist and Emotional Health Coach living in Los Angeles. She's big on meditation and believes in systems and routines, and in personalizing everything you do to help you get where you want to be.