Written by Stephanie Roque, MS, RD, CD
Take a moment to reflect on the last bite of food you consumed. Was it the result of a conscious decision to sit down and enjoy a meal with your family or friends? Was it snacking on the go in order to get to your next meeting on time? Or are you having a hard time even remembering what you ate last because hey, it’s just food right? Mindless eating is all too common in our fast-paced society, and as a result we have become disconnected from the joyous act that is eating and from the important skill of providing nourishment to our bodies.
Mindful eating is the practice of being fully present while eating, of acknowledging and building a positive relationship with food with respect to your body. By using all five senses, mindful eating becomes a powerful practice comprised of nourishment, appreciation and the recognition of your own hunger and satiety cues (1).
Mindful eating can help us to:
- Consume fewer calories.
- Curb consumption when we aren’t hungry.
- Be more conscious of what food does to our bodies.
Here are some principles of mindful eating:
1. Slow down
It is estimated that a staggering 20% of meals consumed by Americans are eaten in the car (2). This is just one example of how eating meals while dealing with external stimuli (such as driving, watching television, playing video games, or working on spreadsheets for your boss that are due at noon) creates a detachment from the act of eating itself. Not only does mindless eating suppress the appreciation for food and the recognition of its impact on your body, it also hinders the ability to form a strong, positive relationship with food.
20% of American meals are eaten in a car.
Let’s be honest. How many times have you sat down to watch a movie with a bag of chips, and before you know it, you’re complete enthralled with the movie and the chips have magically disappeared? Pay attention to what you eat in order to simultaneously improve your relationship with food. Being mindful of what you eat can also reduce the tendency to consume extra, unintended calories as a result of being distracted.
3. Listen to your body
A vital component of mindful eating is listening to your body. How does your body let you know that it’s hungry? How does the food make you feel? How does your body let you know that it’s becoming full?
Consider the following exercise to strengthen your mindful eating skills:
You’ll need: pineapple.
- Turn off external stimuli (like the television), silence your phone, and sit comfortably.
- Pick up a slice of pineapple. Roll it around in your fingers. Smell the sweet aromas; admire its fibers and structure.
- Take one bite of pineapple, but don’t chew it.
- Close your eyes and try to focus solely on the pineapple. Take a moment to reflect its texture, how it feels in your mouth, how it tastes prior to chewing.
- Begin to chew slowly, reflecting on the movement of your jaw and the power of your teeth. Notice the changes to the flavor, texture and sensations within your mouth.
- Remain conscious of how the pineapple transforms in your mouth while you chew. Observe the sensation as you proceed to swallow the pineapple.
- After swallowing the pineapple, take a moment to appreciate the pineapple for the nourishment your body has received, and for the commencement of your body receiving this nourishment.
Wishing you mindfulness, nourishment and health,
Stephanie Roque, MS, RD, CD