4 Simple Tricks to Eat More Mindfully
There are plenty of ways to be a mindful eater without having to fast or be a fully robed monk. In our day and age it can be a challenge when we are bombarded with endless lists of must-have superfoods, celebrity dietitians and friendly know-it-alls. While most of our attention is focused on what we eat very little is paid to how we eat.
A growing body of research suggests how we eat may be just as important as what we eat. Mindful eating predates any diet plan you’ve heard of… by centuries! With it’s roots in Buddhist teaching, mindful eating aims to reconnect individuals with the process and joy of eating. The main goal of mindful eating is to base our eating habits around bodily cues, rather than emotional cues.
I know, I know… it’s hard. Our culture promotes overeating with annual buffets on Thanksgiving, Superbowl Sunday, Easter and a number of other holidays. As someone who has gone from vegetarianism, to pescatarianism, to full blown omnivore I’ve found that how much and how I eat is more important than what I eat (disclaimer: do not eat pizza everyday).
Here are some mindful eating tips I’ve learned over the years:
Remember when you were a kid and your parents would tell you had to chew 24 times before swallowing your food? Well, it turns out they were right — indigestion and the health problems associated with eating too fast can wreak havoc on your gut. You don’t have to take eating slow to extremes — just pace yourself and try to enjoy the flavor in every bite. Eating at a slower pace also allows your mind to recognize when it’s full, before you feel the discomfort in your body.
If you find yourself having trouble slowing down, here are some simple tips I’ve incorporated into my eating regimen to maintain a mindful habit:
- Eat With Chopsticks: Eating every meal with chopsticks for most people is, well… Hard. It’s also difficult to hoover down a meal when you have to pay attention to each bite. Working for each bite is a great way to slow things down.
- Eat With Your Non Dominant Hand: This is a great way to slow down your consumption and be more attentive to the process and joy of eating.
Eat in Silence
This may be an impossible feat to accomplish for every meal if you have a family with children or if you eat food in an office cafeteria. However, there has to be at least a few times a week where you are completely alone and are able to eat in silence. Simply taking the time to savor your meal can go a long way towards creating peace of mind while eating. Sipping tea between bites can also allow for a more regulated digestion process.
I’ve found that eating in silence (yes, that means without a cell phone in tow) allows my mind to wander into a more creative state. I’ve had some of my most enlightened epiphanies and thoughts while eating in silence.
Try to Identify the Ingredients in Your Meals
I learned this trick from a friend of mine who works as a chef at a high profile New York steakhouse. On a recent visit he served me a stunning and flavor packed meal, which I uncharacteristically hoovered down (because I was famished). As I was gulping down each bite he slapped my hand and told me to slow down and actually enjoy my meal. As I slowed down and listened to all the ingredients he listed off I realized there was a joy to eating that I needed to experience more often.
If you cook at home, consider taking time to list off the ingredients and processes required to prepare your meal for your family and friends. Chances are people will take notice and get a nostalgic feel when indulging in the same ingredients somewhere down the line.
Control Your Portions — Doggy Bag it!
If you’re like me, you probably eat out 75% of the time. The high paced lifestyle we all live in makes it extremely hard to cook three square meals a day — which means eating out is as natural as breathing to most of you. A helpful trick I’ve learned along the way is to order a meal and immediately pack up half of it to take home. In most cases I am halfway through the meal I bought and already feel a fullness coming on. Having the other half already stowed away makes it easy to avoid emotional or cost/benefit eating (“if I waste this now, I’ll be hungry later.. thus wasting money”) Just take it to GO!
What are methods you employ to be more mindful while eating? Feel free to share in the comments below.