Counting calories, tracking macros, and restrictive dieting, for the most part, all lead to one thing —an unhealthy, negative relationship with food.
Food is there to fuel our bodies and satisfy our taste buds. We should love and enjoy it, not dread it. However, in today’s busy world, we often eat mindlessly, ignoring whatever signals our body is sending us.
Here are six tips to help you eat more mindfully.
1. Before you eat, take some time to breathe and check how you’re feeling
This is an important first step towards mindfulness and eating in the present moment. How are you feeling right now? Are you hungry, or are you just thirsty, bored, or stressed? Sometimes, we confuse different emotions or thirst for hunger and grab some food without taking time to reflect. Maybe you need some water, exercise, meditation, or just some time to destress. Taking a few minutes to breathe deeply can help you stop and reflect on what your body needs at this moment.
2. Evaluate the food you’re eating
Before you take your first bite, take some time to look at the food on your plate, and evaluate its properties. What colors are on your plate, and what textures do you notice? Are they healthy, whole foods, or processed foods? Where did this food come from? Instead of focusing on the quantitative properties (i.e., number of calories, carbohydrates, etc.), focus on the experience of the food. This will help you enjoy it more and be more appreciative of the healthy foods you’re eating.
3. Eat slowly
Eating slowly is not only crucial for mindful eating, but also for aiding digestion. Often, we eat so fast that our brain doesn’t even have time to register that we’re full before we’ve already finished two plates. Put your fork or spoon down between each bite and take your time. This will not only help you better assess when you’re full, but it will also help you enjoy your food more.
4. Halfway through your meal, stop and assess your hunger levels
Often, we only stop to consider how full we are once we have finished all the food on our plates. However, the amount of food on your plate might not be the amount of food you need. Halfway through your meal, stop, and assess whether you are still hungry or whether you are still enjoying the food you’re eating. You don’t need to finish your plate.
5. Chew your food thoroughly
Digestion begins in the mouth. When we chew our food, important digestive enzymes are released with our saliva. Thus, taking time to chew our food is not only important to keep us mindful of the different tastes and textures that we’re eating, but it also improves digestion. When we take time to chew our food, we are also subconsciously slowing down our eating and enjoying the entire experience.
This is so important—eating should not be a chore, nor should it be something that we only do because we have to in order to live. Eat the foods that both your taste buds and your body enjoy. The more you restrict yourself from what you actually want to eat, the more frustrated you will get, and you will probably end up eating it anyway. You might as well just eat it and enjoy eating it!