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Mindful eating: Four ways to conquer your eating habits

Have you ever looked down and your lunch is gone without realizing it? Many meals are eaten quickly in the car or at your desk with very little thought or enjoyment. Here are four tips to get you out of autopilot and eating mindfully. 

1. Savor each bite
You're busy, but eating should be pleasurable, not rushed. When it's time to eat, go all in. Really 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, cutting back on over consuming and helps you become aware of how certain foods affect you. If you need a cue to help you slow down, set down your utensil or what you are eating between bites. It's much easier to savor each bite when you're not rushing to the next one.

2. Embrace cravings
If you are craving mint chip 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 meals
Turn off the TV, close the laptop and 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 1 in 5 Americans take time for lunch, which can ultimately hinder productivity, creativity and healthy eating habits.

4. Portion 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.

Don't think of mindful eating as a diet. In fact, it's just the opposite. It's not about restricting anything, but rather enjoying all of it. It can be difficult to start this practice when you feel like you are already strapped for time. Try mindfully eating your first and last bite of every meal. This lays the foundation for many delicious mouthfuls in between.

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