5 Ways to Eat Mindfully
1) Let your body catch up to your brain
Eating rapidly past full and ignoring your body’s signals vs. slowing down and eating and stopping when your body says its full.
Slowing down is one of the best ways we can get our mind and body to communicate what we really need for nutrition. The body actually sends its satiation signal about 20 minutes after the brain, which is why we often unconsciously overeat. But, if we slow down, you can give your body a chance to catch up to your brain and hear the signals to eat the right amount.
2) Know your body’s personal hunger signals
Are you responding to an emotional want or responding to your body’s needs?
Often we listen first to our minds, but like many mindfulness practices, we might discover more wisdom by tuning into our bodies first. Rather than just eating when we get emotional signals, which may be different for each of us, be they stress, sadness, frustration, loneliness or even just boredom, we can listen to our bodies. Is your stomach growling, energy low, or feeling a little lightheaded?
3) Develop healthy eating environments
Eating alone and randomly vs. Eating with others at set times and places
Another way that we eat mindlessly is by wandering around looking through cabinets, eating at random times and places, rather than just thinking proactively about our meals and snacks. This slows us down for one thing, but prevents us from developing healthy environmental cues about what and how much to eat, and wires our brains for new cues for eating that not always ideal.
4) Eat food not stories
Eating foods that are emotionally comforting vs. eating foods that are nutritionally healthy
This is another tricky balance, and ideally we can find nourishing foods that are also satisfying and comforting. But think back to that first mindful raisin. Did that seem appealing before you tried it? There are many reasons that the raisin eating it is such a powerful exercise, but one is that when we slow down and eat healthy foods like raisins, we often enjoy them more than the story we tell ourselves about healthy foods. As we practice eating healthier and a greater variety foods, we are less inclined to binge on our comfort foods, and more inclined to enjoy healthy foods, ultimately finding many foods mentally and physically satisfying as opposed to just a few.
5) Consider the life cycle of your food
Considering where food comes from vs. thinking of food as an end product.
Unless you are a hunter-gatherer or sustenance farmer, we have all become ever more disconnected from our food in recent years. Many of us don’t even consider where a meal comes from beyond the supermarket packaging. This is a loss, because eating offers an incredible opportunity to connect us more deeply to the natural world, the elements and to each other.
When we pause to consider all of the people involved in the meal that has arrived on your plate, from the loved ones (and yourself) who prepared it, to those who stocked the shelves, to those who planted and harvested the raw ingredients, to those who supported them, it is hard to not feel both grateful and interconnected.
Mindful eating is not a diet. There are no menus or recipes. It’s learning more about HOW you eat than WHAT you eat. Let’s face it. We have a lot of mindless eating habits that keep us stuck. Such as sitting on the couch watching TV absent-mindlessly munching on chips. Or, wandering into the kitchen to find a snack when you are bored or stressed out.
The good news is that there are some easy ways to get started amping up your awareness (see infographic). Conscious awareness helps to shift you out of old habits.