Did you know that Americans spend $40 million annually on weight loss? What I’m about to tell you might not be the best for my business, but it will likely save you some serious cash on specialty groceries, packaged cleanses, personal trainers and the like–especially at this time of year. With New Years resolutions just around the corner your golden ticket to better health and well-being might be as simple as harnessing tools you already have within you to practice mindfulness while you munch.
Mindfulness is common speak for yogis worldwide. It is a practice derived from Buddhism and seen as a critical part of the tradition’s Noble Eightfold Path to Enlightenment. Mindfulness can be achieved through proper meditation, but can also be cultivated through daily efforts to bring awareness into all different aspects of our lives. It takes work–constant, and concerted effort–but can make a world of difference for your stress levels, concentration, productivity and even your relationships with friends, family and partners. The aspect I’ll focus on here, however, is how it can positively impact your relationship with food and ultimately lead to better nutrition and feeling comfortable with your body in both its internal and external manifestations.
Being more aware of your eating habits and resetting your relationship with food is a challenging process, but one that can be made easier by following my 5 Rules for MOAR Mindful Eating:
- Sit down. Try to take a break from being the efficient machine you are and avoid the urge to multitask while you’re eating. Eating should get the same dedicated attention that composing an email or making a phone call does. By allowing your mind to focus on enjoying your food, you’ll be ready to realize and respond to the signals from your tummy when your hunger is gone.
- Screen(s) off. It’s now well-known that there’s a proven connection between screen time and type 2 diabetes in children. Kids aren’t the only casualties. Let’s face it, we’re (almost) all addicted to our cell phones, tablets and computers (a.k.a. screens). Who out there spends at least 6 hours of their day looking at a screen? I’d venture to say at least 75% of my readers do. Now answer me this, who out there looks at a screen while eating at least one meal a day? The vast majority of us–and I’m guilty as charged–check emails, respond to texts and/or watch TV while we munch. Turning your screen off prevents you from getting distracted as to why you’re eating and, as I already mentioned, helps you recognize satiety. A mindful eater eats when they’re hungry rather than when they’re bored, sad, stressed, or celebrating. This is a lot easier said than done so set yourself up for success in cultivating food and full awareness by eliminating distractions.
- Slow down. How many times have you waited 45 minutes for a table at a restaurant, 30 minutes for your food to arrive, and devoured your entire meal in under 10? In our culture of go go go, we rarely give the ritual of eating its due attention. Proper digestion begins in the mouth. Slow it down and allow your body to focus its energy on the act of eating and start things off right by chewing your food. I’m not preaching that we need to go so far as to chew each bite 40 times–though there is a fair amount of scientific evidence to suggest the efficacy of this–but at the very least we know that it takes 15-20 minutes for food to register in your brain chemistry (with the help of hormones like ghrelin and leptin) and trigger satiety. TIP: try chopsticks or using your non-dominant hand.
- Savor flavor. Slowing down allows you to be aware of what you’re eating. If you focus on your food you’ll begin to notice the color, taste, smell and texture of what you’re consuming, as well as think about the effort you or someone else put into making it. This is an opportunity for gratitude that we all too often miss. It is also a great way to start savoring your food. As you become more mindful of what you’re munching on, your food will taste better and it might just encourage you to cook more which is this nutrition coach’s #1 strategy for long-term success in better eating habits for you and your family.
- Finally, Sink in. Stay put after you finish your meal. This will (a) give your body the time it needs to figure out whether or not you’re full; and (b), if you aren’t rushing off to the next thing, you’re far less likely to experience stomach upset which can be triggered by the release of cortisol, a powerful stress hormone. For those of you who suffer from IBS or other tummy disorders, simply building in some down-time after you eat could mean a significant decrease in symptoms.
I’d love to hear your tips for more mindful eating. Please share your ideas in the “Leave a Reply” field below, or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.