Mindful eating isn’t something that’s hard to practice. So, why do so few people eat mindfully? Maybe we’re distracted by our Netflix show. Or we’re rushing to gulp our food down to get back to working. By practicing mindful eating exercises, you can bring the attention back to your body to prevent overeating and to simply enjoy the process of eating. In this article, we’ll be sharing some mindful eating tips so you can pay better attention to what you eat.
What Is Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating is the practice of paying attention to your body and the process of eating. When eating mindfully, you feel the sensation of chewing. You also taste a mix of flavors in your mouth. A person also notices a sense of fullness after they’ve eaten the right quantity of food.
A person who practices mindful eating becomes aware of their hunger, their food, and their digestion. With the average person eating three meals a day, there are potentially three moments each day to practice mindful eating meditation.
It’s not a fad diet but a form of meditation.
Benefits of Mindful Eating
There are numerous benefits of mindful eating. Here are a few:
1. Better Digestion
One of the benefits of mindful eating is that you’ll see an improvement in digestion. Oftentimes, when people do not eat mindfully, they fail to fully chew their food which puts a greater strain on our bodies to digest them. Food should be chewed about 30 times per bite. And most people don’t chew for anywhere near that amount of time. By eating mindfully, you’ll put more effort into chewing your food thoroughly to help aid digestion.
2. Weight Loss
Another one of the amazing benefits of mindful eating is that you’ll very likely experience weight loss. Let’s first make it clear that mindful eating isn’t a diet but simply a meditation-based lifestyle change. When you become aware of the food you put into your body, you begin to make better decisions. By being more mindful of the food you cook and put into your body, you’ll begin to make healthier choices. And slowly the weight gained from eating unhealthy food will come off.
3. Enjoy Meals
So many times we eat quickly while watching our favorite show or to get back to work. However, with mindful eating, you pay more attention to the process of eating. You’ll chew more slowly. And notice all the flavors of food in your mouth. Then, you suddenly notice how great your food is. You begin to enjoy your meals more savoring every bite.
10 Ways to Practice Mindful Eating: Tips for Eating Mindfully
Mindful eating is just one of the many ways to practice mindfulness. Here’s a few different practices you can try to be more mindful while you eat.
1. Listen to Yourself Chew
Turn off the blaring loud Netflix. Lower your music as you eat at your desk. If you want to eat mindfully, you need to hear yourself chew. Not only does it prevent you from overeating, but it also helps you focus on the entire process of eating. When you practice eating mindfully, you want to feel the movement of your jaw. Pay close attention to the sound of your chewing. The sound of your saliva filling your mouth. The sound of chewing soft food and hard food. Do you hear the difference? Have you ever noticed the difference before? With a meditation for eating, focus on all the senses you feel as you chew. Do you notice the exact moment that the sensation of hunger starts disappearing? Do you notice your eyes being drawn to your next bite? Do you notice how fast you chew? These are all the little things you’ll need to practice when eating mindfully. Become an observer of your eating process.
2. Try a New Restaurant
Are you one of those people who often go to the same restaurant and eat the same meal? Same here. We’re all guilty of going to the same place to eat our favorite food. However, sometimes, the decision is made so mindlessly that we never really explore beyond our comfort zones. If you’ve ever tried something for the first time, you likely noticed that you paid more attention to it. A fun mindful eating challenge you can try is to step outside your comfort zone. Head out to a new restaurant you’ve never been to before and eat something off their menu that you’ve never tried before. The process will help you become more mindful because you don’t have any expectations of what the food will look or taste like. You might choose to try something in a neighborhood you’ve never even been to before. Be mindful of your entire experience. Take a careful look at the decor of the restaurant, do you notice anything unusual? Stare at your dish carefully, was it placed onto your plate in a sloppy mess or does it make the meal more appetizing? Avoid taking pictures of your food as it prevents you from being mindful
3. Chew Your Food 30 times
Are you a fast chewer or a slow one? Some of us want to get right back to work after our lunch break so we gulp our food down in under 10 minutes. Did you know that for improved digestion you need to chew your food about 30 times? For some of us, this may seem unnatural. It’s a lot of chewing. You might feel the sensation of wanting to swallow. Notice this sensation of wanting to swallow before your food is fully chewed. Count all of your chews per bite. At what number do you feel you want to swallow? Notice it. And continue chewing. Become aware of your chewing. As you become more practiced at chewing thoroughly, eventually you’ll stop counting to bring the attention to your chewing. You’ll become more aware of what a fully chewed bite feels like.
4. Feel the Sensation of Fullness
With distractions such as a television show or music playing as we eat, we often fail to recognize the sensation of fullness. However, by practicing mindful eating, we become more attuned to our bodies to help us better understand when hunger arises and when fullness begins. Rather than eating everything off our filled plates, we’ll instead eat until our bodies tell us that we’ve nourished ourselves enough. When you chew mindfully, you mind even find yourself feeling full after only part of your plate. By being mindful about the food you put onto your plate, you might find yourself feeling full quickly from that as well. Practicing mindful eating allows you to eat just enough without eating more.
5. Don’t Eat Around the Clock
Have you ever noticed that you likely eat around a schedule set up by society. Breakfast should be eaten before work. Lunch is at noon. And dinner is after work. Most people don’t eat food when they’re hungry. Instead, they eat around their workday. While we don’t want to encourage eating too much or too little, we do want you to be more mindful of when you’re hungry. If you find that you aren’t hungry at breakfast, don’t eat as soon as you wake up. If you find you’re starving at 11:30 in the morning, eat a little bit earlier. If you find that hunger arises once again at 4 p.m. then eat again at that time. Ultimately, eat at the schedule your body wants food. If your stomach starts growling, it’s likely a sign that you’re hungry. Mindful eating is also about eating at the right times for you personally.
Try our guided mindful eating practiceThe next time you sit down to have a snack or meal, try our guided mindful eating practice.
6. Eat Nutrient Dense Foods
Now we’ll never completely discourage you from indulging in a sweet treat on occasion. However, the bulk of your meals should be nutrient dense. That’s what mindful eating is all about. Being aware of the food you’re putting into the body. If you nourish your body with all the vitamins your body needs, you’ll be practicing some good ol’ fashioned self-care. And let’s be honest the most nutrient-dense foods are likely fruits and vegetables. If you’re transitioning from eating unhealthy foods into healthy foods, you might want to start small. Maybe you reduce one of your sweets. Or you include a little bit of salad to your plate to help you acquire the taste. Slowly, you add more vegetables to your meals. Eventually, eating healthy becomes part of your routine. The practice of mindful eating becomes easier.
7. Cook Your Own Food
Mindful eating can start with cooking. Knowing the ingredients you put into a meal can be a mindful experience. Often, when we order take out we fail to see the ingredients that are put into our food. Maybe there’s an excess of sugar to make food taste more delicious. Or unhealthy oils such as canola or vegetable are used to cut costs for food businesses. Ultimately, you fail to recognize the unhealthy ingredients that may be in your food. The process of cooking can also be mindful. You can become aware of how well cooked your food is. Maybe there’s smells that fill your home, which cause you to salivate. Notice all of these sensations that happen as you cook. Does your mouth water as you get closer to finishing the process of making your meal. Mindful cooking can help you create more nutritious meals and make the cooking process more enjoyable as well.
8. Notice What You Eat
As you begin mindful eating, it’s important to carefully notice what you are eating. For example, if you’re eating chicken and broccoli, it’s important to notice where your food once came from. Recognize that both the animal and vegetable were once living. You don’t need to get carried away from a political perspective. Every single person on the planet eats food that was once alive. Otherwise, we’d all be eating rocks. Plants, grains, fruits, and vegetables were once living too. Take a moment to appreciate their life as you eat mindfully. Recognize the sacrifice they made so that you too can thrive alive. And one day, you too will go back to the earth and give those plants life.
9. Avoid Grabbing Handfuls
To practice mindful eating, you need to be attentive to the behaviors and actions you take for consumption. Too often, we’ll dive our hand into a bag of chips or M&M’s and grab a handful of those delicious bites. However, that handful we grab is often done on autopilot. We are often unaware of the impulse behaviors we take when eating snacks. By grabbing a single chip, chocolate, or pretzel and taking the time to eat it slowly, we inch closer to mindful eating. You may notice a sensation or urge in your body to want to eat more than just one at a time. Notice this sensation. Where does this sensation come from? Try to resist the sensation. How do you feel? Does the urge continue to rise or calm down?
10. Portion Control Your Meals
When we haven’t eaten for a few hours and the hunger pangs grow stronger, it’s easy to portion control with our eyes instead of our stomachs. We may overfill our plates because our eyes have made the decision that we need more of this food. However, with mindful eating, you need to put the amount of food onto your plate that your body actually needs. As mentioned earlier, we need to eat until we feel the sensation of fullness. As we portion control our plates, we need to start small and add more as needed. By adding less food to our plate, we’re more likely to save leftovers instead of throwing out uneaten food as well.
Mindful eating allows you to be in a meditative state as you eat your meals. While you may practice meditation regularly, taking the steps to eat thoughtfully is a great way to put your practice into action each day. Mindful eating can improve digestion, assist with weight loss, and allow you to enjoy your meals. You can practice eating mindfully by portion controlling, cooking your own meals, listening to yourself chew, and more.
Try it with kids, too! Mindful eating is also a great mindfulness activity for kids that’s fun and teaches mindfulness.