Simple Steps to Mindful Eating (1)
These steps are simple but our current lifestyles are incongruous with them. By increasing our mindfulness while eating, we can increase the pleasure of something we get to do multiple times a day. Satiation feelings can be hard to identify and quantify and may take a long time to master so be patient and don’t give up. One important caveat is that, in most cultures, eating is a very social activity. Mindful eating is not meant to eliminate the fun we have in a social environment that includes food. If you try these techniques when you are in a quiet space, you can become adept at mastering the feelings and you will be able to automatically apply them in social settings (4)
**Notes: This article does not take into account the nutritioness of the food you will be consuming. That will be the subject of future articles. The goal of this is help you have a calmer, more relaxed eating experience that will improve your enjoyment of whatever you are eating.
This article does not delve into cleanses or fasts. Reach out to professionals with these experiences to help determine if these are right for you.
- Am I hungry?
First assess whether you are really hungry. Just take 1–2 minutes to do this each time you plan to eat. We tend to eat on the basis of time, not hunger. Try to avoid getting ‘overly’ hungry before eating.
If you can answer yes to all but the last item, you probably are hungry. If the answer is no to most of these, it would be better to wait before eating and try to address any issues such as stress or hydration. Over time, try to hone your ability to recognize true hunger vs other stimuli for wanting to eat.
- Has it been 3–4 hours since I had a satisfying meal?
- Am I calm?
- Am I hydrated?
- Is my stomach rumbling?
- Do I have a gnawing, empty feeling in my stomach that gets more intense with time?
- Am I feeling overly emotional (high or low, angry, frustrated etc.) and want to dull or enhance my feelings?
Once you are convinced you are hungry take the following steps:
- Turn off or put away all digital devices during the brief time you are eating.
- Eat sitting down without distractions like TV.
- Take a couple of deep slow breaths to calm your mind.
- Plate your entire meal before starting. Using a normal size dinner plate, fill the plate with hopefully nutritious foods that always include vegetables (3). For visual reminders you can take a picture of your plate before eating. Avoid eating out of containers even for take out food.
- Notice the colors, shapes and smells of your food. As you take a bite of food, notice the flavors and textures.
- Take your time while eating. It should be enjoyable and you should not feel rushed. You will eat less, digest better and you are more likely to stop when you feel satisfied.
- Drink only small sips of water while eating. Limit your consumption of fluids 15 minutes before you eat and for at least 15 to 30 minutes after a meal.
- Do not go back for more food until you allow yourself to digest what you have just eaten and repeat the steps to determine hunger. This may take 15–20 minutes. Remember that this is not an attempt to be restrictive but just to allow yourself to assess fullness. If you can honestly assess over this waiting period that you are still hungry, feel free to eat again.
2. When have I had enough to eat for now?
The feeling you are striving for is one between hunger and uncomfortable fullness. It may take time to really become an expert in recognizing the signs of satiation without being ‘stuffed’, as discussed in the article “
- Have I given my body a chance to digest the food?
- Have the hunger signs above dissipated?
- Do I feel comfortable in my clothes or do I feel uncomfortable ,indicating that I ate too much?
- Did I fill my plate and eat everything on it?
Try this one time with your largest meal of the day. The goal is not to add a huge amount of time to your meal unless you desire to. Document how long your meal takes to eat using mindfulness and compare this to the same meal eaten as you usually do. Continue adding more mindful meals as you are able but each single meal that you change is GREAT!
- Weil, Andrew, Eating Well for Optimal Health, Alfred A Knopf, New York, 2000, p.14.