So hopefully you’re not gorging on brains, but have you ever started eating a bag of chips or cookies and then realized that you had eaten the whole bag? You may not even remember eating them all or whether they tasted good. This “mindless” or “distracted” eating happens to many of us. Our lives are so busy that we operate on “auto-pilot”, acting like zombies, and giving little thought to what or how much we eat—especially when in front of the television and computer, or while driving the car.
The alternative is called “mindful eating”. Mindfulness means paying attention to thoughts, feelings, and actions, like your stomach growling or specific cravings that indicate your hunger. Mindfulness also means paying attention to external cues, like the smell and sight of foods that tempt you to eat, even when you are not actually hungry.
Practicing mindful eating can be difficult at first because it involves changing your mindset and keeping this awareness throughout your busy day. But as you practice mindfulness more and more, you can gain control over your eating patterns by understanding your triggers; reduce the number of calories you eat in a meal by allowing your body to digest; learn to recognize when you are actually hungry (versus bored or stressed); and, improve your dining experience as you savor the flavors and textures of your food more.
If you are new to mindful eating, try starting with these simple steps:
- Eat without distractions. This means no cell phones, computer, television, or reading. Avoid eating in your car or at your desk.
- Sit down and enjoy your meal; eat slowly and chew each bite before picking up the fork to take the next bite.
- Learn to savor the smells, colors, and textures of your food as you are eating. Doing so, will help you to enjoy your meals more.
- Take 20 minutes or longer to eat a meal. Your body requires 20 minutes to digest the food and send signals to your brain to tell you that you are full. If you eat quickly, you are more likely to overeat past the stage of feeling satisfied.
- Ask yourself: “Am I hungry?,” and “Why am I eating?” These questions may prompt you to make a more mindful decision. Many people who struggle with weight issues eat because of emotions rather than hunger. Learning how to deal with your emotions and not turn to food for comfort can be a big step in taking control of your life.
Mindful eating takes time because you are replacing old habits with new ones. Start by practicing mindful eating one or two meals a week and then increase as you become more comfortable with the technique. For more information on mindful eating, visit The Center for Mindful Eating.