Mindful eating is the practice of conscious consumption. This is easier said than done, but is essential when it comes to establishing healthy eating behaviors.
Even if you eat healthy, feel great, and are empowered by your health and fitness goals, you may not be mindfully eating. To know where you stand in this practice, it is important to know what mindful eating is not.
Mindful eating is not stress eating or passively consuming. It is not giving into unhealthy cravings, over indulging, or feeling guilty about the foods you put into your body. It is not depriving yourself of food when you feel “heavier”, nor is it participating in the unsustainable, diet roller coaster.
If you have a tendency toward any of the eating behaviors above, your first step in improving your health and overall wellness is to understand that these behaviors are not healthy and that they can be corrected. The benefits of mindful eating are real and should motivate you as you begin to foster a heightened consciousness around the food you eat. It may not be easy, but the following 5 tips will help you create the behavioral foundation that prioritizes mindful eating practices and holistic wellness.
THINK WITH YOU STOMACH, NOT YOUR EYES
It is far too common for people to think with their eyes and not with their stomach. When you reach for a snack or sit down for a meal, don’t be fooled by the portion size. It is so easy to think with your eyes when you are eating out at a restaurant. Even if you are incredibly hungry, order a portion that you know is sufficient. Your eyes may tell you it isn’t enough food, but chances are your stomach will be quite satisfied!
Before, during, and after you eat, take the time to reflect. Before you sit down to enjoy a meal or nibble on a snack, ask yourself if you are hungry. If so, exactly how hungry and how will the food you plan to eat make you feel? During your eating period, check in with your body. How is the food making you feel? How has your hunger changed since the beginning of your meal? Lastly, after your meal, take the time to reflect on your energy, satisfaction, and mood. Do you feel the food you ate provided a boost in nutrition? Do you feel ready to tackle the remainder of your day or do you feel weighed down? Answering these questions honestly will create a more intimate relationship between you and the food you put in your body, allowing you to appreciate food, as opposed to allowing it to impair you.
Slow your roll! Eating quickly is the easiest way to ditch mindful eating. Take your time, put your fork down between bites, and be sure to chew your food until it is finely ground up (this could be up to 30 bites). Practicing each of these will naturally slow down your eating, promote smoother digestion, and give your body time to process the changes in your hunger.
DITCH THE CLEAN PLATE CLUB
The truth is, the full plate is an optical illusion. Just because your plate looks pretty and complete, does mean that you need to eat every last bite. The key is to eat until you are satisfied, not until you are stuffed. Ignore how the plate looks and focus on how you feel. Your stomach will let you know when it is time to put down the knife and fork.
REMIND YOURSELF OF YOUR GOALS
The best way to incorporate mindful eating into your health and fitness journey is to leverage your health goals as continuous motivation. Before you eat, be sure to ask yourself if the food in front of you supports your goals. If the answer is no, ask yourself if you are impulsively or unhealthily going for a meal that does not align with the eating behaviors you have found to be the healthiest choices for you.