Five Tips for Building Mindful Eating Into Your Busy Day
Most things are up for grabs, but a few things in life aren’t negotiable. Breathing is one. We have to breathe. Eating is another. We have to eat. Breathing…that’s a topic for another article. Let’s focus on eating. In the relentless rush to get things done, it can be difficult to slow down and focus on nourishing your body.
Do you eat slowly and really enjoy and taste your meals? Or, are you multi-tasking and paying little attention to what you’re eating? Yes? You’re in good company. I’m sure there is some good soul out there that doesn’t ever eat mindlessly. But I haven’t met that person. I don't really expect to, either.
Mindless eating showed up in my life in all the ways you can think of. Eating while working, driving, walking, reading, watching TV, using the computer, and talking on the phone. Eating out of - well, really, binging on - the bag of tortilla chips or whatever else that was handy when I was stressed or really hungry.
I put little thought into the consequences of a diet based almost exclusively on processed, preservative-rich, microwaveable foods out of a box or bag. Even though I’m from a food-centric family, eating was an afterthought, and I usually ate only what I needed to have enough energy to do everything else going on in my “busy” life.
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I ate as quickly as possible, not enjoying my food, much less savoring it. Health problems (in the form of life-interfering digestive problems and allergies) finally convinced me I needed to change before I developed a health crisis from which there was no return. Mindful eating has been a revolutionary practice for me, and my body feels healthier and happier for it.
If you’re looking to do your body justice, really savor your food, and benefit from all the nourishment it has to offer, here are five tips to help you be mindful about what you're eating in your day.
(Tip: Don't try to integrate them all at the same time. That can be overwhelming. Start with one or two. Pick what most resonates with you and apply those tips to a few select meals during the week, and build from there.)
1) Chew your food thoroughly
When you slow down and enjoy your meal, you digest your food more efficiently.
The digestive system begins in the mouth. The salivary glands contain enzymes that break food down, an integral part of the process of chemical digestion and absorption. The body can’t access any of the nutrients in some foods unless the fibers are broken up in the mouth.
You can read more about how chewing facilitates digestion and absorbing nutrients here.
2) Eat without distractions
When we're distracted from our eating, we not only miss out on enjoying our food, but also lose track of how much we are actually eating, how quickly we're eating it, and how the food is making us feel.
What would it be like to eat without working, watching television, talking on the phone, looking at the computer, or reading a book? Instead, you can play relaxing, soothing music while you’re eating. This can be a great accompaniment to your meal, particularly if you’re eating alone.
If you regularly multi-task when you eat, start with the meal in your day that most easily lends itself to this practice.
3) Pay attention to taste
Notice if you actually enjoy what you’re eating or not. You may notice that your enjoyment in a food lessens or disappears as you're eating it. With attentiveness, you may notice that your body no longer wants what you're eating.
When I share this advice, people are always surprised to learn that there can be changes in taste. Slow down and eat your snacks or meals with curiosity. Notice if the taste changes, and how that affects how much you eat.
[Related: Is Your Kitchen Holding You Back?]
4) Respect your hunger
Do you work or power through your hunger? What happens afterward? Do you end up overeating or eating unhealthy food you later regret?
Take the time to recognize when you are physically hungry. When you are, feed that hunger with substantive nutrients before your body becomes mad-hungry. Perhaps that means planning ahead and having an extra meal on-hand at the office if you know you'll be working late.
5) Notice what else your body is telling you
What if you're no longer hungry, or your stomach is just plain full? So many of us have been trained to not be wasteful and eat everything on our plate that we have lost connection with what our bodies are telling us. Listen to the natural wisdom of your body.
Notice when you are full, and then stop. It’s hard to change such an ingrained habit, but think of it this way - you won’t be wasting food in the long-run. Consider it a transition to learning the correct portion size for you - and a transition to a healthier you.
These starting points for conscious, mindful eating can have a powerful impact on your eating patterns. It has certainly dramatically improved my relationship with food. If you take the time to enjoy and taste your food, chances are that you’ll also be more conscious of and happier with your food choices and eating habits in the future.
Stephanie Lewis, founder of LiveWellFlow, is a certified health and wellness coach, certified mindfulness meditation instructor, and practicing attorney who helps people create peace and balance in their lives. She has been trained in mindful eating through the Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training (MB-EAT) Professional Training Program. Stephanie is also furthering her training in mindfulness instruction through the WarriorOne: Mindfulness in the Law Teacher Training Program. For more information, visit https://livewellflow.com.
Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.
Health And Wellness Coach and Meditation Instructor
I am a certified health & wellness coach, certified mindfulness meditation instructor, licensed Am I Hungry? mindful eating facilitator and coach, and Qigong Practice Leader (and practicing attorney) passionate about helping people suffering from overwhelm reduce stress and burnout and live with intention so they can achieve their goals and dreams. Through my company, LiveWellFlow, I have coached professionals to help them improve their health and bring more balance, joy, ease, and connection into their... Continue Reading
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