Mindful eating is really important when trying to eat intuitively, but it’s definitely something that I struggle with. Food plays such an important role in our daily lives – I mean, we make food decisions at least three times each and every day. Our food choices, including what and when we eat, come with so many rules and are often judged by others and (unfortunately) ourselves. This makes it difficult to approach a meal with a neutral attitude. To be focused on the food we’re eating, in tune with how our body feels, and simultaneously calm about the choice we’ve made and excited to enjoy the meal seems almost too much to ask for. Add in the distractions of work, television, or dining companions and the goal of eating mindfully becomes that much more difficult.
I certainly haven’t mastered this skill, but I’ve brainstormed a few strategies to help overcome the difficulties associated with mindful eating. I hope that by sharing these with you, we can all move closer to the goal of practicing mindful consumption.
An easy first step is to eliminate distractions during mealtimes. This means sitting down at the dining room table for every dinner and snack, rather than noshing on the couch or at the kitchen counter. By setting the table, laying down a cloth napkin, and filling a water glass, we prepare ourselves to enjoy the ritual of a delicious meal. Leaving the table also signifies that the meal is over, making us less likely to continue snacking while we do the dishes or late into the night. Of course, the TV should be strictly off limits when eating. Even reading can detract attention away from our food. If we take the time to focus fully on the plate in front of us, we are more likely to feel satisfied and content when the meal ends.
Next, be sure to eat slowly, and take the time to fully taste and appreciate each bite. Too often we shovel large forkfuls into our mouths, or swallow without really chewing, let alone tasting. If you’re excited about a yummy meal – and you should always be eating foods that pique your interest – why would you want to speed through your plate? Instead, take the time to appreciate the rich sensations your food offers. Inhale the yummy smells, appreciate the complex flavors, and pause between bites. With this approach, you’ll also have the chance to reflect on how your meal makes you feel, which we know is a key step towards feeling satisfied and content.
This third and final tip is undoubtably the most important. That is, to never feel guilty about what you’re eating. Before you sit down to breakfast or dinner, ask yourself what you are really craving and what sounds best to your body, in that very moment. Then, give yourself permission to eat whatever your body asks for – and try not to feel an ounce of guilt! Whether you end up reaching for protein-rich scrambled eggs, a fresh fruit bowl, or a dense, grainy muffin, know that these nutrients are the perfect fuel that you need. It’s impossible to enjoy something if you’re filled with guilt or anxiety, so let go and allow yourself to find joy in and appreciation for your delicious meal.
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