There’s a lot of talk in magazines and online these days about “mindful eating.” But what the heck is it exactly and why is it something we should be thinking about?
Mindful eating is basically a way of eating that is the exact opposite of the way most of us eat now.
When we eat mindfully we sit down at a table (not a work desk, not in front of a TV, not in the car). We notice the food that we’re eating – the way it looks, the smell, the taste. We slow down and notice how we feel as we eat the food. We take time to appreciate the food and everyone who helped get it to our plates. We chew slowly and listen to the messages from our body about when we’ve had enough.
We don’t look at our phones or work on the computer or clean up the kitchen or fight with our families. We just eat. Nothing else.
Mindful eating is a powerful tool that can help you eat less, digest your food better and make healthier choices.
It’s also an excellent tool to help curb emotional eating; it’s a whole lot harder to eat an entire box of Girl Guide cookies when you put them on a plate in front of you at the dining room table.
Here are three simple mindful eating exercises you can use to get a handle on emotional eating:
- Being Present with Your Food – Choose one meal or snack today and commit to doing nothing during that time but eating. No TV, no driving, no working, no reading, no talking on the phone, no walking around the house getting ready to go out.
Just sit down (preferably at a table) and give 100% of your focus to eating.
Slow down. Take your time. Really notice how the food looks, smells, tastes and feels in your mouth. Notice how the rest of your body feels as you eat it. Without judging or trying to change them, notice the thoughts that pop into your head as you do this exercise.
- Mindful Eating Journal – For one day this week keep a Mindful Eating Journal. Write down what you eat, when you eat it and what feelings and thoughts came up before, during and after eating. If you do this for a few days you will likely start to see some patterns around how you’re feeling and what you’re eating. You can use this information to begin to challenge some of those thoughts and feelings in order to change some of those patterns.
- Delayed Gratification – Mindful eating can also help with cravings. The truth is that, as intense as they can be, most cravings only last for a few moments (in only feels like eons). If you can batten down the hatches and weather the storm you can often escape unscathed.
The next time you’re really craving a less than healthy food or drink, don’t tell yourself you can’t have it, just commit to waiting 10 minutes before you have it. During that time breathe, turn inward and notice the feelings going through your head. Are you tired? Sad? Overwhelmed? What are you really craving?
If you still want it just as desperately after the 10 minutes are over, go for it. But many times you’ll find that after those 10 minutes have passed, your craving will have diminished enough that you are open to considering a healthier alternative.