Eating Mindfully

Have you ever found yourself shoveling half of a sandwich into your mouth and barely chewing it? Or maybe you eat standing. Are you the type that races around tossing the next bite of food down while tidying the house? We’ve all been there. It’s lunchtime; you’re starving. You realize you’ve waited too long to eat and low blood sugar has set in.

Mindful eating makes you and your food the priority, not what you are doing or have to do or anything other than your meal.

Often, we find ourselves too busy. We have too much to do, phone calls to make, deadlines to meet, children to shuttle from one event to another. It is during these times our eating patterns suffer and we develop bad eating habits and digestive issues, which ultimately do a disservice to our bodies.

During stressful times our tendency is not to think ahead about our meals. We grab whatever is nearby — maybe it’s the muffin on the counter, a bag of chips in the pantry or a quick sandwich. We may find ourselves barely chewing our food before putting the next bite in our mouth. These habits can make us sick and cause us to gain weight.

Being mindful during meals is a key to changing habits. However, eating mindfully and consciously can take some work. Breaking habits and becoming aware of not only what we eat, but how we eat is one way to affect change. Some suggestions include taking time out to think about what you are going to eat, making a food plan and taking the time to prepare the meal. If you really are too busy, consider hiring someone to prepare meals for you or head to the health food store or restaurant for lunch.

What does being mindful mean? It means taking the time to think about your breath, paying attention, being aware of everything occurring in the moment, slowing down and accepting what is. Mindful eating makes you and your food the priority, not what you are doing or have to do or anything other than your meal.

Focus on the food
The first step is to do nothing else while you eat. Focus on the food. Do not read, talk on the phone, look at your computer or watch TV while eating. Step away from your desk and sit somewhere that is calm. Go into the kitchen, eat at your dining table or in the break room; go outside to a picnic table. Change the scenery while having your meal.

When you sit down, focus on what you are eating — what does it smell like, how is the texture and the temperature, what tastes are you experiencing? Chew your food slowly. In the 19th Century, health guru Horace Fletcher suggested that chewing your food 100 times was good for health and digestion. That might be extreme; start with chewing smaller bites of food 30 times each and see what your experience is.

Eat less
The other mindful exercise is to eat less. When we wait until we are hungry to eat, we tend to eat more than necessary, going from zero to full in no time. Try putting less food on your plate; using a smaller plate or bowl helps, too. Wait for your food to settle in your stomach. Given time, we find that we’ve eaten plenty and are comfortably satiated with less.

Focus on what you eat
Being mindful about what you eat is equally important. Try using more fresh vegetables and fruits and less processed foods. Make the 80/20 Rule a habit. When you plan your day, decide that 80 percent of the foods you eat will be fresh, whole foods, grains and clean protein with lots of veggies and fruit. And 20 percent can be less-than-healthy, processed foods, if need be.

Think veggie bowls on brown rice on fresh greens, roasted chicken with quinoa and veggies or grilled salmon on sautéed spinach. All these can be eaten warm or cold.

Being aware is a key to living well. It is also a key to eating more healthily and being mindful about food.