How often do you scarf down lunch in front of your computer, inhale a snack in the car or eat your dinner while catching up on your favorite TV shows? While this may seem like a great way to save time—and we’re all about multitasking—it’s actually not a good habit to develop and can lead to over eating, and create a major disconnect between our mind and our appetite.
“When we can slow down and really enjoy our food, our life and our health, we take on a much deeper quality,” said Thich Nhat, author of Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Living.
Mindful eating helps you appreciate each meal, learn when you’re hungry and when you’re just stressed or bored, and allow you to maintain a healthy weight. The following tips can help you eat mindfully.
Create a peaceful eating space. Even if you’re just clearing a corner of your desk (not in front of your computer!), creating a clear spot for you to enjoy your meals can help you feel a sense of calm that is hard to harvest when sitting at a cluttered surface.
Make time. It should take at least 20 minutes to eat a meal. While most people scarf their meals down in less than half of that time, aim to take a 15-minute break to focus on eating your meals. When we eat on the fly, our brains often don’t register the meal completely, which can lead to over eating later.
Eat sitting down. This battles mindless munching while standing at the fridge or pantry. Since we aren’t eating in front of the TV anymore (right?!) this means taking your snack to a table and focusing on your food, which will make you less likely to over-eat just because you’re zoning out—or focusing on the newest episode of Real Housewives.
Hone in on hunger. When you have the urge to eat, picture yourself sitting down to a full meal. If this is appealing, then you’re probably hungry. If not, you may be stressed, tired or bored. If you aren’t hungry, don’t eat. Distract yourself instead. Call a friend, take a walk or work on a project. Hungry? Go ahead and eat, right away. Waiting too long to eat or skipping meals can lead to unhealthy binges later.
Use your senses. Now that you’re taking the time to focus on your food, begin to notice each sensation. Savor flavors and textures. Focus on smell, color and taste combinations. By being conscious of each bite of food, and enjoying food as a full sensory experience, chances are you will appreciate it more, and possibly need less to feel satiated.
Check in with yourself. Our portion sizes are usually out of control. Now that you’re focusing on your food, begin downsizing your portions or taking breaks midway through your meal to check in with yourself. Are you truly still hungry? If not, wrap up the rest of your meal for later.