MINDFUL EATING is not a diet. It’s a conscious way of eating and enjoying food for both good health and pleasure. It uses our internal cues for hunger, appetite, and satiety to guide us in eating. When we slow down and pay attention to how we eat, what we eat, and how we feel, we’re more likely to make better decisions that nourish our bodies.
Here are a few steps you can take to practice mindful eating.
Step 1 – Give yourself permission to eat what you want. If you don’t, you may find yourself overeating because you don’t want to feel deprived. Restricting yourself from certain foods may also keep you craving them whether you’re hungry or not.
Step 2 – Focus while you eat. Instead of unconsciously shoveling food into your mouth at mealtimes or as you go about the day, STOP to enjoy each bite. Whenever you eat, take a moment to sit down and JUST EAT; don’t do anything else. Make it an event.
Step 3 – Savor the flavor. Engage your sense of smell and taste to fully enjoy your food. Appreciate the delicious smell before you take a bite. Then as you bite into your sandwich, broccoli, candy, or whatever, notice the texture – is it soft or hard, chewy or crunchy? Take your time and let it sit in your mouth for a few seconds before you start to chew. Move it around to let all your taste buds get in on the action.
Step 4 – Reflect for a moment. Once you finish, take some time to think about the experience. Was it as good as you imagined it would be? Did you really (really) love it? Do you feel satisfied and happy or guilty and worried about the calories? The latter likely means that you weren’t able to fully enjoy your food and you may be stuck in “diet mentality” thinking. With time and practice, you can move beyond this.
Step 5 – Decide what’s next. Do you want more candy? If so, repeat steps 1 – 4.
Does the idea of eating whatever you want scare you? Are you afraid that all you will eat is junk food – chips, cookies, and ice cream? If you’ve dieted for a long time, this is understandable. Just know that with practice, mindful eating will become more natural. When you use your internal cues for hunger, appetite, and satiety to guide you in eating, you end up eating just the right amount and kind of food to truly nourish your body.