Mindful Eating:
Pay Attention!

Mindful Eating

 

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At the core of a balanced life is mindfulness...being conscious of all you do and feel. But being mindful is not always so simple. Especially as regards food.

It's easy to eat meal after meal, snack after snack, and have no idea what and how much you've eaten. But listen...

Amazing things happen when you pay attention to what you eat.

All of a sudden you begin to notice the specific characteristics of various foods and become aware of just how much of it you're putting into your body.

Mindful eating means feeling the saltiness of a potato chip on your fingers when you pick it up, and tasting the salt when you put the chip on your tongue. It’s listening to the loud crunch of each bite, and the noise the chewing makes in your head.

And it's awareness of how many chips it takes to feel satisfied...rather than stuffed.

Mindful eating is all about increasing awareness...

...awareness of food and of the eating experience. And it's another tool in your dietary toolbox to help you manage and/or lose weight.

That's because weight loss requires consuming fewer calories, and that's usually accomplished by eating less.

And how can you eat less without paying attention to what you eat? You can't!

Here are some great mindful eating tips. They all involve paying attention.

  1. Put your fork down between bites
  2. Engage all 5 senses when you eat
  3. Establish - and use - a Hunger Scale

1. Put Your Fork Down Between Bites

I know, your mom has already told you, but it bears repeating.

Putting your fork (or spoon) down between bites forces you to slow down and pay attention to your food. (It can also give slower eaters a chance to catch up with you!)

Your mind can only be in one place at a time, and chances are, if you have your fork in hand, your focus is on the bite next to come...NOT on the food that's already in your mouth. You are consuming calories...why not taste and enjoy them? Slow down and give food the respect it deserves.

It's as simple as 1-2-3:

  1. Take a bite, then put your fork/spoon down
  2. Chew and swallow whatever is in your mouth
  3. Go back to #1 and repeat

2. Engage all 5 senses when you eat

Here's how:

  • What does the food LOOK like?
  • What does it SMELL like?
  • What does it FEEL like on your tongue?
  • Can you HEAR it in your mouth?
  • What does it TASTE like?

The next time you eat an apple, try this mindful eating exercise:

  • How does it look - round, shiny, red, green?
  • How does it smell - sweet, tart, fresh?
  • How does it feel - heavy, smooth?
  • How does it sound when you bite into it?
  • How does it taste (as you chew it...slowly) - sweet, tart, sour?
  • How would you describe the texture or feel of the peel and the flesh?
  • After you swallow, is there a pleasant aftertaste?

3. Establish - and use - a Hunger Scale

What's a hunger scale? It's your personal "hunger thermometer," a measure of just how hungry you are at any given moment.

That's right: you should become aware of the varying degrees of your physical hunger. Is your stomach grumbling? A lot? A little? Not at all? If your stomach isn't grumbling and you're still thinking about food, there's a good chance you're eating emotionally.

Rate your hunger on a scale of 1 (ravenous) to 10 (stuffed):

mindful eating hunger scale

Also, rate your hunger 3 times for each meal:

  • Before the meal
  • During the meal
  • After meal

As you mindfully eat, notice how your levels of hunger (and fullness) change.

An ideal way to eat:

  • begin eating only when you are at 3-4
  • stop eating when you are at 7-8

That means stopping when you are 70-80% full, or at the point where you are comfortably satisfied...not stuffed! There is a difference between how much you can make room for and how much you need!

More than a state of mind, mindful eating is a practice. That means you can't buy the skill, and you can't get good at it by reading about it. You have to practice it...

...Regularly...Always...Forever.

Start today. Make a commitment to practice mindful eating one meal every day. Eventually it will become second nature.

In a world of dos and don'ts, this is a definite DO.

Looking for more information? I can recommend this book on mindful eating:

Eating Mindfully:
How to End Mindless Eating and Enjoy a Balanced Relationship with Food

by Susan Albers

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