“There has been a great deal of hype around Mindfulness in 2017. Furthermore, people are recognizing its importance in developing a healthy relationship with food and better eating habits. One may ask – how does mindfulness improve nutrition? GREAT QUESTION. Let’s take a closer look at what mindfulness is and how we can incorporate it into our daily lives.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines mindfulness as “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis”.
Being mindful and living moment to moment is almost unheard of today. We are constantly thinking about our future, or past, giving little time and energy to our present. Many of our daily processes have become automatic and we run most of our day on autopilot (including the process of eating). We can compare eating to the act of driving a vehicle. If you have been driving for years you can multitask and no longer think about your moment to moment decisions. This has also happened to the act of eating. Can you remember the last time your family, or you as an individual, sat down at a table and completely unplugged from the world during meal time? Many of us can agree that we are often watching television, connecting on social media, or flipping through a book, magazine, or newspaper. Taking the time to analyze the taste of each bite or waiting for our body’s subtle cues of satisfaction is rare.
Without mindfulness, we often forget to appreciate the small things and we miss many of our body’s subtle cues that can help us live a healthier life. By incorporating mindfulness, we can make better decisions moment to moment and can start to recognize the cues our body provides. This can ultimately lead to a healthier and happier YOU.
Here are a few simple and quick tips to make mindfulness a bigger part of eating:
Instead of eating on the go or wolfing down a whole plate in record time, try and prolong meal time. Take about 20 to 30 minutes to consume each meal. It takes our body approximately 20 minutes to send out fullness cues. These cues are extremely important in preventing overeating! Here are some table tricks that will help slow you down:
- Chew 20-30 times before swallowing your food
- Eat with the opposite hand
- Put your utensil down every 1-3 bites
- Take a moment to breath (take 3 deep breaths before consuming more food)
- Instead of shoveling your food onto your utensil, mindfully poke and pick up small amounts per bite
Mealtimes have become a time in which many people catch up on missed e-mails or watch the latest episode of “This is Us” or “Grey’s Anatomy”. Although staying connected is tempting, it causes the process of eating to become automated. Distractions such as books, magazines, or electronics will only make it more difficult to slow down and be mindful. Try this exercise: consume a meal in complete silence. Let your thoughts wonder but practice the skill of bringing those thoughts back to the present and think about each bite and how it tastes.
Talking to yourself may sound like something you do when you are a child, but it can prove to be very rewarding when it comes to making food decisions. If you think back on all your food decisions today, can you remember what your thought process was behind each choice? Next time you go to grab cookies take the time to self-talk. Ask yourself the following questions. Is this food choice going to bring me closer to my goal? Is this food choice in-line with my values? How much of this food do I need to make me happy and satisfied? Often the things we want in the moment address our immediate wants/desires but fall short in providing our long-term needs.
Listen to Your Body:
Our bodies have a built-in mechanism to help us determine how much food we need to eat. When we make healthy food choices and consume wholesome real food our body sends us the appropriate cues of fullness. These cues are subtle and it will take time to develop the skill of defining hunger and fullness appropriately. You are following these cues correctly when you feel hungry before a meal, but not STARVING, and when you feel satisfied following a meal, but not STUFFED. It is important that we avoid filling up on highly processed foods as these foods do not send out appropriate fullness cues and leave us feeling hungry shortly after consumption.
Critique your Food:
Have you ever finished a meal or snack and almost instantly felt like you never ate? This tip goes together with slowing down and unplugging at mealtimes. We often take our food for granted by wolfing it down in record time. We spend a great deal of time preparing a meal so why should we be eating it in record time? Instead, we need to be food critiques each time we eat. Take your time to analyze the taste and texture of your food. Next time you sit down to eat a meal or have a snack take the time to taste your food. You will be shocked at how it will change your perception of food. Try the following exercise found in the book “The Mindful Diet” by Ruth Wolever and Beth Rearson: place a chip in your mouth and hold it there for a period of time exploring the taste and texture. You will likely notice that the outer seasoning quickly disappears leaving you with what tastes like cardboard. You need more and more chips to gain a sense of taste satisfaction. Now try this exercise with a wholesome REAL food of your choice. You will note that taste satisfaction is reached more quickly and in a lesser amount than that of chips.
Now with these tips in hand, start making mindful eating a priority and reap the benefits!
Karly Meincke, BASc, RD
Registered Dietitian and Sports Nutritionist
Fuel Up Nutrition