Chances are you're no stranger to multi-tasking. You scroll through Facebook when you stand in line, watch TV while you fold laundry, and help with homework while you cook dinner. While these habits are fairly benign, multi-tasking while you eat can affect your weight loss journey.
Think about your last couple of meals. What were you doing besides chewing? When you grab breakfast during your morning commute, eat lunch over your keyboard, or dip into dinner while watching the news, distractions can make it difficult to recognize satiation. Mindful eating, or being fully present while eating, increases your awareness so you can consume more consciously, less automatically, and with more pleasure—a good thing since recognizing food characteristics like appearance, aroma, taste, and texture can affect the amount you eat. As it happens, people who eat more mindfully eat less overall and have a better sense of how much they've eaten than people who eat amidst distractions. What's more, they tend to weigh less than those who eat quickly.
To be clear, mindful eating isn’t about finding the time and space to eat in absolute silence. (No fun!) It just helps you to slow down so you can recognize how much you've eaten and whether you've had enough. Ready to try mindful eating? Start here:
9 ways to try mindful eating
1. Do away with distractions.
Turn off the TV, and the smartphone, clear the table, and zero in on your food.
2. Set a meal space.
Choose a place to eat that has few distractions—think kitchen table vs. TV room couch. Turn this into the place where you always eat; if you only eat at the kitchen table, you'll be less likely to think "snack time!" every time you settle down at say, your desk.
3. Take a quiet moment.
Before you begin eating, stop to reflect on your mood, the meal, and what you're grateful for. Pausing for a moment ahead of your a meal can help you switch off automatic eating.
4. Take it all in.
Engage all your senses. How does the food look and smell? Anticipate that first taste. Once you begin to dig in, pay careful attention to how fast you eat, how many chews you take per bite, how much you eat, whether you pay attention to the flavors and textures of the foods you are eating and, if so, what you notice about them.
5. Downsize your bites.
Taking smaller bites at a slower rate allows the food to spend more time in your mouth so you can enjoy it more. Chew each mouthful thoroughly for the full effects.
6. Drop your fork.
Putting your fork down between bites can help slow you down so you have more time to enjoy every mouthful and the meal itself.
7. Sip water between bites.
Taking breaks to rehydrate clears your palate and makes your meal last longer.
8. Pace yourself with the slowest eater.
While eating with others, conversation can distract you from what and how much you’re eating. But hey, eating alone can be lonely. When dining with company, locate the slowest eater and go bite for bite to pace yourself.
9. Reflect before refilling your plate.
Give yourself some time before going for that second helping. If you feel satisfied, consider whether you’d like to prolong the enjoyment of the meal by saving your leftovers for another meal. That way, you'll get to relish it for more than one day.