Eating mindfully

Some years ago there was a commercial that featured a man moaning, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.” The remedy for his stomach distress was Alka-Seltzer.  Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, and the problem goes away.  But if this man had known about mindful eating, he may not have had this problem at all.

Simply put, mindful eating is being aware of what you put into your mouth and taking the time to experience the pleasure of eating.  Instead of mindlessly going from a chip bag, nut jar, or pizza box to one’s mouth while watching TV or a video, a person concentrates on the food that he is eating. 

This concentration allows one to actually taste the food and enjoy it. A bonus is that one may also notice how much of the food is being eaten (before the entire contents of the bags or boxes disappear). 

Are you eating the food that your kids leave on their plates?  Must you finish the peanut butter or mayo when just a spoonful is left after making sandwiches?  Or maybe you sample your culinary creations while you cook.  (I am guilty of this, mea culpa.)  Those bits and bites can add up to major calories and may not be on your radar as such.  Mindless habits?

Mindful eating has its naysayers, but I think a little awareness can go a long way. Food can be more enjoyable and satisfying when we take time to taste, notice textures, and realize when we are full.

Here are a few suggestions to increase your awareness while eating.

  • Portion snack foods accordingly after reading the label for the suggested serving size.  Serve snacks in small bowls that will help you see how much you are eating.  If you can’t stop at just one, try repackaging chips and similar snacks in small baggies and store in the original container.  Just stop at one baggie, though, when you indulge.
  • Try eating on smaller plates.  Lunch-size plates work well.  This may squelch the tendency to load up the plate with a larger serving than one needs.
  • Plate food in the kitchen instead of putting serving dishes on the table.  This can make one think twice about getting up for a second helping.
  • Turn off the television and converse during meals.  Talking is less distracting than an action-packed program. Or, if you eat alone, take the time to savor and experience the flavors in each bite. This can be a type of meditation, if you are into that sort of thing.
  • Have meals in only one or two places in the house, preferably at a table.  Eating in bed, over the sink, or in front of the TV and computer monitors can become a habit that cues you to eat just because you are in those areas.
  • Chew slowly to allow your stomach and brain to tell you when you are satisfied. Eat only when you are hungry. 
  • Keep healthy foods visible instead of salty or sweet calorie-laden snacks.  Apples, oranges, kiwis, bananas can be kept in bowl on counter or table.  Baby carrots, celery sticks, and grape tomatoes can be washed and ready in the fridge.

For more information, visit the Eating Mindfully site or Center for Mindful Eating.

Live well and thoughtfully.