Let me start by asking you this ….
Are you eating right now as you read this article?
If the answer is ‘yes,’ I’d like to challenge you to stop eating for the next 5 minutes, the time it takes you to complete this article.
I know you can chew gum and walk at the same time, and you can read and eat at the same time. But multi-tasking like this means you are really eating “mindlessly,” without much thought or attention to what or how much you are eating, or whether you’re even enjoying what you are eating … ‘zombie eating.’
Mindful Eating Exercise
Take a moment to think about everything you ate at last night in as much detail as possible. Imagine what it looked like: the types of foods, the colors, and the portion size. Recall the smell of the food, the taste and texture of what you ate.
Now ask yourself, if you had to write an incident report that accurately described what you ate, could you? Many people would not be able to do it. This is because we often eat mindlessly.
Eating mindlessly takes away the enjoyment of food and can contribute to overeating. This leads to unwanted weight gain, fatigue, poor digestion and even shorter life span! An analysis of more than two dozen studies demonstrated that people who eat mindlessly, as when distracted with games, computer, TV or reading, eat significantly more, 10 to 50% more, than those who are focused solely on eating. These same individuals eat up to 25% more at the next meal.
On top of the many tempting distractions taking our attention away from eating and enjoying the food, the environment itself lures us into eating even more mindlessly. Dr. Brian Wansink, an expert in consumer eating behavior, has discovered many different ways we are susceptible to this phenomenon. Check this out …
Reducing mindless eating is a good step, but to truly get more enjoyment from food and eating, you may need to practice MindFULL eating. Mindfull eating, simply put, is about “eating with intention and attention.” To control weight and enjoy your food more, try these simple strategies:
- DOWNSIZE by using smaller plates and bowls, and don’t eat out of a large bag or container.
- Reduce SEE-FOOD: keep unhealthy food out of your sight, put candy or sweets in an opaque jar, or hide junk food behind healthier foods.
- AVOID buffets and family-style service when possible; it’s easy to eat too much, too fast.
“What? But my problem is that I put too much attention on food because I love it so much!”
Many people think this, but in my experience, I’ve often found that those who say they love food actually don’t enjoy their food very much. A recent study from the National Institutes of Health showed why this may be true, at least for obese people: brain scans show less response in the reward center of the brain, meaning they may seek more food in order to get the same feeling of “reward” as compared to those who were leaner.
Being more mindful while eating can help with the enjoyment of food, and that means you may feel satisfied with less food. Mindful eating, by definition, takes attention and time, probably more time than you usually spend. Check out The Last Orange on Earth
Incorporate mindful eating into each of your meals
- Sit down to eat, preferably in a designated eating area, not at a desk or in a bedroom.
- Give thanks for the meal: this can be silent or aloud, however and to whomever you wish; or just take a couple of deep breaths before eating.
- Focus on the one task of eating for at least 15 minutes without TV, computer, phone, or other distractions. Focus on the food (appearance, scent, taste, texture, etc.);
- Chew completely before swallowing or before taking another bite of food.
- Don’t pick up a utensil until you’ve swallowed your last bite of food.
- Stop eating when you feel about 80% full. It takes your brain a few minutes to catch up with your stomach and realize you’ve eaten enough.
So incorporate a few of these habits to cut mindless eating, promote mindful eating, and you may just find you are enjoying the food you eat more while eating less!
A happy, mindful eater!