Becoming a Mindful Eating MasterFebruary 8, 2023
Becoming a Mindful Eating Master: Have you heard the phrase Autopilot Eating? Well, it’s not all that different from driving on autopilot, where we are totally tuned out and disconnected. Most of us completely lack mindfulness when it comes to eating. Eating is something we do on autopilot, or something we do while we are also doing something else more important. Have you ever looked back on your day and had a hard time remembering what you ate? That’s because you weren’t mindful when eating.
The problem with not being mindful is that it prevents you from connecting with your food- from truly appreciating and enjoying all the smells and flavors associated with it. It basically takes all of the enjoyment out of eating and we want to bring that enjoyment back!
I have worked with so many people who claim to be extreme food lovers, but they eat so quickly that they barely have an opportunity to taste their food! Do you fall into this category? I’m guessing you are a big fan of food! Well, loving food is about savoring it and appreciating it with all of your senses. So let’s look at exactly how we can do that by developing mindful eating skills!
Mindful eating has several different skills and components. Each component of mindful eating has benefits, so don’t feel you need to get all of them at once. That can be quite overwhelming and a great way to set yourself up for failure! Some of these components may already be a part of your eating, and if so, congratulations on already being a step ahead of the game!
The first part of mindful eating is SLOWING DOWN! We are always in such a rush to eat that we don’t get any real enjoyment out of it. And we don’t even realize that we are eating so fast- it’s something that just happens, you know, on Autopilot! So, you need to start setting aside time to enjoy your food. If you normally eat breakfast in 5 minutes, plan for 10. If you normally eat dinner in 15 minutes, plan for 30. Double your time so you are truly able to connect with your meal.
Below are several strategies to incorporate to help slow down your eating. The goal of all of these is to help you reconnect with your food; to take the time to pause and enjoy and appreciate your meal, to savor each bite, and to connect with the feelings of fullness as you continue through your meal.
As an added tip, it can be especially helpful when you are working on slowing down your eating to listen to slower music during meals- music with a BPM of 72 or lower. Try listening to classical, light jazz, or spa music!
Here are some strategies to help you SLOW DOWN!
- TASTE YOUR FOOD- As you take each bite, think about all of the flavors and textures in your mouth and the nuances of how the flavors combine.
- SMELL YOUR FOOD- Enjoy all of the aromas of your food. Does each bite smell the same? Are some aromas better than others?
- LOOK AT YOUR FOOD- Take it all in visually. Appreciate all of the colors and textures and how they combine to create a meal.
- PUT YOUR UTENSIL DOWN- As soon as you take a bite of food, put your utensil down and let go of it. Chew your food and enjoy it. Once you have swallowed, pick your utensil back up and prepare your next bite.
- SCREEN FREE EATING- Screens (TV, computer, phone, iPad) are visually distracting and keep us from focusing on our food, usually causing us to eat faster. This is a tough habit for some of you to break, but I promise it will be worth it!
The second component of becoming a mindful eating master is RELAXED EATING. When our body and brain are relaxed, we are more able to enjoy our meal and our bodies have a much easier time with digestion. Here are some strategies to achieve this:
- DEEP BREATHS- Before you begin eating, take 5 to 10 slow, deep breaths. Throughout your meal, take a deep breath every now and then to keep yourself relaxed and focused.
- RELAXING ATMOSPHERE- Whenever possible, try to eat in a relaxing environment instead of an over-stimulating one. An example of this might be eating in a breakroom instead of at your desk. Or eating at a table instead of in your car.
- SIT DOWN- Always eat sitting down instead of standing up. Standing is a signal of being on-the-go and doesn’t convey relaxation to your body. Sitting allows you to focus and relax.
The last component of becoming a mindful eating master is ASSESSING HUNGER. How often do you ask yourself how hungry/full you are in the middle of a meal? Probably never! Assessing hunger should happen before you start eating and then periodically throughout your meal.
- BEGINNING ASSESSMENT- When you first sit down to eat, do a quick assessment of how hungry you are. Is your stomach growling? Does it feel empty? Are you salivating? Just make a quick mental note before you begin.
- ONGOING ASSESSMENT- Throughout your meal, every 10 bites or so, take a moment to assess your hunger again. Are you still feeling hungry? Are you starting to feel satiated? Is your stomach feeling fuller? Does your food still taste as good as it did in the beginning of the meal? Again, just make a quick mental note before continuing.
So, those are the components of becoming a mindful eating master. It may sound like a lot and it may sound like it is impossible to do all the time, and that may be correct! Mindful eating is something we always strive for, not something we always achieve. There are always going to be certain situations we can’t control that don’t allow for it- we are not always going to have time, or the right environment; it is just a goal. But each effort and each step allows you to get closer to mindfulness and a true connection with your food!
Dr. Candice Seti, Psy.D., of Me Only Better is known in the community as "The Weight Loss Therapist."
ABOUT THE AUTHORDr. Candice Seti, Psy.D., of Me Only Better is known in the community as "The Weight Loss Therapist." Dr. Seti is renowned for her expertise in applying cognitive therapy to weight loss and weight management and extensive knowledge of nutrition and exercise applications to a weight management program. This is an area Dr. Seti has been passionate about for many years after her own weight loss experience. Read more articles by Dr. Seti!