If there’s one benefit of mindful eating that most people can get behind it’s the weight management benefit. That’s what attracted me to it too. Bottom line is, when we mindlessly put food into our mouth we end up eating more. I don’t want to do that! But after doing the research for this post, I now have a slightly different motivation for recommending it. What’s most attractive about mindful eating is that it changes our relationship with food, and that is so much better than just eating less. It’s why we eat less and my fascination with the brain that has me so excited.
Because coaching is my thing and permanent behavior change is always a goal, I’m excited to find yet another brain-behavior connection. What I’ve learned is that eating mindfully leads to a brain-behavior readjustment. It’s the best reason, I think, to practice mindful eating. Mindful eating as it’s usually explained is about being more present while we eat. By being more aware, we retrain our brain to make new associations with food. These new associations lead to us eating less and less to soothe our emotional needs.
The reasons mindful eating has such a positive impact on weight loss and weight management are easy to understand—when we’re mindful we have fewer obsessive thoughts and operate less on automatic. We have more enjoyable dining experiences and recall what foods trigger sensitivities, that (surprise) artichokes actually do taste great, and we experience less stress. Over time, the practice of paying more attention as we eat leads to a whole new relationship with food. It virtually makes weight management a non-issue.
So with all that said, let’s look at 7 mindful eating tips that you can start practicing now. These will not only lead to more satisfying dining experiences but help your digestive system work better too.
1. Less multitasking
It’s not ideal but in our busy lives, we tend to eat while doing something else. If you can’t break the habit and must multitask, reading or listening to a podcast while eating is better than eating while watching TV. The problem with TV is that it makes you forget everything else. You see, TV demands your full attention but it’s your meal that should have your full or most of your attention. In a 1987 study published in the journal Gastroenterology, researchers illustrate how metabolism and digestion are altered under perceived distraction. Yeah, that discomfort and belly bloat you experience after eating may be due to the stressful state you eat in.
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 not just our gut but our self-confidence and personal development too?
3. Chew each bite 30 times
And pause for 30 seconds to a minute between every few bites. This may sound like work and it may take effort to remember to do, at first. With repeated practice though, eating this way will become automatic–it’s called muscle memory. The pauses between every few bites mimic what you would be doing if you were eating (and talking) with others. As you can imagine, eating slower aids digestion and helps you feel the cues that you’re full sooner.
4. Creatively serve your meal
Using real plates and utensils, artfully placing your food on the plate, and even setting the table for one, these things elevate your dining experience. It does something else that’s very important too—it says you’re worth it!
5. Think about the nourishment you’re putting in your body
While you’re eating some blueberries, imagine Vitamin C making your immune system stronger. Imagine the antioxidants helping to delay aging. Think about the fact that the fiber and other nutrients are helping your heart and even helping to prevent cancer. Don’t just eat, think, and think well thoughts as you eat.
6. Be grateful for what you’re eating
Gratitude helps you savor the dining experience and use more of your senses. See and appreciate the juices and color of those berries. Be amazed by the texture of your bread. Be grateful, be present for all of it and for the company you’re eating with.
7. Use smaller plates
Don’t pack your plate! Think about how they serve meals in better restaurants and model their portion size. A tip that might help you is to stay away from the plate corners by at least an inch. Better yet, use smaller plates if you’re unsure.
To further your mindful eating education, check out these resources: