I’d like to share with you a powerful skill that will impact your health and well-being virtually the moment you begin using it. It will cost you nothing but your time, attention, and patience. I know, that last one can be a real challenge! But as with all things, practice is the key to developing positive changes.
The skill is mindful eating. It entails bringing our attention and awareness to the process of eating. Doing so actually prepares the mind and body for food by increasing the production of digestive enzymes and readying our metabolism. This means you will enjoy your food more, eat less, and digest it better as your absorption of the nutrients in your food is enhanced. Sound good? Here’s how to do it:
- Chose when you will eat based on how hungry you are. Using a scale of 1-10, with 1 being as hungry as you could possibly be, try to eat when your hunger is at about 3 or 4. Waiting until you are too hungry will lead you to want to rush your meals and you will tend to eat more than you need.
- Turn off and put away all distractions. No television, computer, cell phone, magazines, etc. If you are eating with others, simply enjoy their company and conversation while you practice mindful eating. You can even invite them to join you in practicing eating mindfully if you like.
- Take a few minutes before you dig in to prepare yourself for the meal you are about to enjoy. Sit down in a comfortable spot. Take a few deep breaths. If you are having difficult or intense emotions, take the time you need to clear your head and heart with a few more deep breaths and/or do some journaling to express your feelings and release them. Say a prayer and/or take a moment to be grateful for the food you are about to enjoy.
- Chew each mouthful of food slowly and thoroughly. Your saliva has vital enzymes that will help you begin to break down your food and prepare it for digestion. Chewing your food 30-50 times before swallowing will also aid your digestion and absorption of nutrients. At first, this will seem like a lot but with practice, you will learn to develop this helpful habit.
- Savor the smell, taste, and texture of your food. This not only enhances your enjoyment of your meal but will allow you to know when you are just the right amount of full much sooner than eating when you are distracted.
- Stop eating when you are comfortably full. If a rating of 10 out of 10 is absolutely stuffed, you are aiming to stop eating when you rate your satiety (fullness) at a 7 or 8.
Don’t be discouraged if this is difficult for you. That just means it is a very different approach to how you eat and you are all the more likely to benefit from practicing mindful eating. As you continue this technique, you will notice that you are feeling more satisfied with less food than you used to. I hope you will enjoy the benefits of eating like you mean it; there are many. Bon appetit!