Person eats junk food while looking at a smartphone, a poor eating habit that can be helped by mindfulness


Mindful eating: Five ways to conquer your eating habits

Have you ever looked down and your lunch is gone without realizing it? Many meals are devoured in the car or at your desk with little thought or enjoyment. Let’s change that with five tips to get you out of autopilot and eat mindfully.

But first, what is mindful eating?

Mindful eating can improve how you think about food. The approach engages all of your senses to bring more awareness to how you feel before, during and after you eat. Here are a few ways to make meals more enjoyable, one bite at a time. 

Discover the benefits of mindfulness.

1. Slow down

You're busy, but eating should be enjoyable, not rushed. When it's time to eat, savor each bite. Think about the crunch of the toast as you take that first bite. Notice the contrast of the tart strawberry jam on the warm bread.

Enjoying your food slows you down, prevents overconsuming and helps you become aware of how certain foods affect you. Slowing down can help you digest your food better and prevent overeating.

If you need a cue to help you slow down, set down your utensil or what you’re eating between bites. It's easier to savor each bite when you're not rushing to the next one. As you chew, think about the tastes you notice with each bite. 

2. Embrace cravings

If you’re craving ice cream, pause before throwing open the freezer door. Was work especially stressful today? Are you rewarding yourself for a great workout? Are you simply bored? Recognize the reason and then make your decision. Mindful eating doesn't mean limiting yourself to only the healthy stuff, but guides you to reflect on wants versus needs.

3. Don't multitask during meals

Turn off the TV, close the laptop and do anything else that is distracting during meal time. Sit down and give your food your full attention. This can be especially hard—but so important—during lunchtime at work. Only one in five people in the U.S. take time for lunch, which can hinder productivity, creativity and healthy eating habits.

4. Plate your portions properly

Eating straight from the box doesn't allow you to really see what and how much you're eating. Take the time to put food on a plate or in a bowl. That way, you're truly aware. Also, just because you're eating dinner doesn't mean you have to eat off a dinner plate. 

Use smaller dishes. When you're eating mindfully, you're more likely to recognize when you're full instead of cleaning the plate simply because it's there.

5. Mind over platter

The feeling of hunger is your body saying it’s time to eat. There are two types of hunger – physical hunger and emotional hunger. You’re likely familiar with the grumbles and growls of physical hunger. 

Emotional hunger presents a different course of challenges. For starters, the hunger in your head often boosts your appetite when you aren’t physically hungry. You may experience emotional hunger when you feel bored, stressed or sad. Head hunger can also bring on cravings for unhealthy foods. 

When you tame emotional hunger, you take another step closer to becoming a more mindful eater. If you feel this type of hunger, consider healthier snacks you enjoy, mindful movement and ensure you’re drinking enough water. 

Mindful eating vs. dieting

Mindful eating can help manage your weight with healthier choices, but it isn’t a diet. It's not about restricting certain foods but rather creating more enjoyment. It can be difficult to start this practice when you feel like you’re already strapped for time. 

Try mindfully eating during your first and last bite of every meal. This lays the foundation for more tasty mouthfuls in between.

Listen to your gut

You have a natural ability to identify and respond to hunger and satiety (fullness). Ideally, you should consider a meal or snack at a 3 and end at a 6. So, how do you know if you’ve eaten the right amount of food? Consider trying the Hunger-Satiety Scale.

10 = Sick: You feel painfully full and nauseated. 

9 = Stuffed: Your stomach feels bloated. 

8 = Discomfort: You feel uncomfortable. 

7 = Very full: You feel like you’ve overeaten.

6 = Full: Your stomach feels comfortable. 

5 = Satisfied: You’re not hungry or full. 

4 = Pangs: Your stomach is growling and starting to feel empty.

3 = Hungry: You cannot concentrate. All you can think about is that you’re hungry.

2 = Starving: You’re irritable and want to eat everything in sight.

1 = Ravenous: You feel like you’ll pass out.

Mindful support for your needs

Take the next step toward mindful eating today. Schedule a consultation with a provider at a location near you. We’ll work with you to create a personalized plan and help nourish more mindful eating habits that last. 


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