The thought of slowing down, savoring each bite, and tasting, feeling, thinking about every morsel you put into your mouth is enough to put the breaks on mindful eating all together.
You don’t have to set aside an hour for each meal or stop everything and pay attention only to your food to make mindful eating a part of your daily life. Let’s learn a bit about what mindful eating actually is and 7 ways you can make mindful eating a part of your routine, even when life gets busy.
What is mindful eating?
The Center for Mindful Eating breaks the concept down into four parts. It is so much more than just paying attention to what you are eating in the moment. If you want to learn more and get your hands on some valuable resources and additional tips to eat mindfully, head to their website!
Mindful eating is:
- Listening to yourself and your body as you make decisions about and connect to the food that you choose to eat.
- Using your senses as you eat to allow for maximum physical nourishment and sensory satisfaction.
- Allowing yourself to like or dislike food, and honoring that preference without judgement on yourself.
- Tuning into your body to listen to and honor the signals of hunger and fullness.
If you go through a day not doing each and every one of these bullets, it does not mean that you have failed at eating mindfully that day.
Mindful eating is a state and a practice that comes with time. Trying to implement each and every part of mindful eating into your life at once is not realistic, but implementing it in stages is.
So how do you begin to implement mindful eating when you feel like you barely have the time for a lunch break? Here are 7 tips to eat mindfully even on your busiest days.
7 Tips to Eat Mindfully
1.Ask Yourself What Matters
Mindful eating can begin as soon as. you start thinking of what you will buy at the grocery store for the week or where you will eat out.
Taking the time to evaluate what matters to you about what you eat and why can help guide your decisions and form a stronger connection between yourself and the food that you choose to eat.
2. Eat Regularly and Listen for Hunger
One of the biggest ways to sabotage any mindful eating efforts is to let yourself get too hungry. When you hit that point of primal hunger, it is impossible to think of anything besides getting food into your mouth.
By planning your meals to be approximately 4-5 hours apart and keeping a couple of snacks handy, you should be able to avoid that ravenous feeling when it comes time to sit down and eat a meal.
When is the best time to sit down and eat a meal? When you are starting to feel hunger, but aren’t at the point of feeling nauseated, irritated, or completely empty. Life happens and we aren’t always able to hit that perfect “sweet spot” of a meal time, and that’s okay, but making efforts to do so when you can will help.
3. Evaluate Your Plate
Before you put anything in your mouth, take a second to really evaluate what you are about to eat. Look at it, take a big breath and see if any smells stand out, maybe even think about where the food came from.
This doesn’t have to be a 5 minute affair, but taking 30-60 seconds to just connect with what you are about to eat can make a big difference.
4. Schedule enough time to eat and use it.
Do you get a 30 minute lunch break but scarf it all down in 10? Use the time you have for a meal by pacing yourself and taking your time. If you are eating with. others, it can be helpful to take a bite or two, then take a minute to join back into conversation.
If you, like so many of us, try to be productive during meal times, consider taking a few breaks then too. Sometimes we feel the need to work through our lunch, and that’s okay, but think about what you can do to bring just a little separation between distraction and eating.
Maybe you can eat 1/4 of your plate and then send that email you need to get out before moving on to the rest. Or maybe you dedicate half of your time to eating and the other half to your work.
Brainstorm some ideas that will help you avoid mindlessly eating your entire lunch while staring at the computer screen.
5. Take Smaller Bites
This tip is especially useful when we are eating while distracted. Eating handfuls of food while driving, watching tv, or any other activity where we really aren’t even looking at what we are putting in our mouths.
You pack trail mix in the car to be prepared when hunger strikes. This is a great idea. You then eat handful after handful while driving, until the bag is gone and you really didn’t even taste it. This is not so great.
When you are eating while distracted, and sometimes you may have to, make a conscious effort to take small bites. Just one or two pieces at a time of the trail mix instead of a whole handful will help you to better tune into the taste, texture, and feeling of eating that food.
6. Take a mid-meal pause
No matter how busy you are when eating or how little time you have, a mid-meal pause can help bring you back to the present moment. Out of all of the tips to eat mindfully, this one might have the biggest impact in any and all situations.
Before starting your meal, make a mental note that when half of it is gone you will stop. Take an opportunity at that time to put your fork down, and just sit for 1-2 minutes.
Ask yourself if you are still hungry? How much more do you feel you will need to eat to be full? Are you satisfied with what you are eating? Does it still taste good?
You can use these few minutes to just do a quick check in with yourself no matter where you are, who you are with, or what you are doing.
7. How do you feel?
When all is said and done, how are you feeling? The mindfulness part of eating doesn’t stop when the last morsel of food is off the plate.
Evaluate how the food you ate or the way you ate made you feel. If you ate quickly and felt distracted, how did that impact how you felt after the meal? If you ate exactly what you wanted and connected with the eating experience, how did that impact how you felt after the meal?
Taking a pause to just reflect on what happened and how you feel in the moments after eating can be a helpful guide during future meals.
Mindful Eating is Made to Practice, Not Perfect
Take a look at the 7 tips to eat mindfully above. What one can you begin to implement today?
Start your mindful eating practice knowing that there is no way to get it perfect and there is no finish line. Just like intuitive eating, mindful eating is a practice that allows you to learn and develop a connection with food and your body that will serve you for life.