If you’ve been reading Dr. Allison Answers for a while, you know that I am a big fan of mindfulness. Quick recap: mindfulness involves bringing your attention to the present moment, focusing all your attention and energy on the here and now. Mindfulness means paying attention to what is happening right now.
Mindfulness can be practiced in a million different ways. In fact, you can put the word “mindful” in front of almost any verb, and it’s likely a thing. Mindful walking, mindful sitting, mindful breathing, mindful hand washing, the list goes on. One of my personal favorites? Mindful eating.
If we bring in the definition from above, mindful eating means that you bring all of your attention to the act of eating, focusing on your food in a totally new way. And while it might sound a little strange at first, it has a ton of benefits.
Mindful eating has been shown to reduce binge eating and overeating. (Hello entire sleeve of Thin Mints!) It’s indicated as a helpful tool for weight loss. And it’s been shown to disrupt many of the negative cycles we have with food, body-image, and negative self-talk.
Mindful eating also helps you experience food in a new way, savoring flavors and textures like never before.
Plus (in case you needed more reasons), mindful eating flexes your “mindfulness muscle,” strengthening your overall ability to be in the present moment. So if you struggle with anxiety, worry, or staying focused, mindful eating helps you work out the same mindfulness muscles you use during meditation, mindful breathing, or healthy self-talk.
To be frank, mindful eating is too helpful and too easy not to try! So today, I’m sharing five, super simple tips for practicing mindful eating at your next meal. Let’s do this!
1. Take one full breath before you eat a single bite. You know that realization midway through lunch that you’ve shoveled the first half of your meal down and you haven’t really tasted a thing? We’re often in such a rush, moving from one thing to the next, that we don’t make time to stop one thing before beginning the next. This is a set up for rushed and frenzied eating, which often leaves you unsatisfied and wanting more. So do yourself a favor and take at least one full, deep breath before you eat anything. It sets you up for successful and satisfying meal. (PS: For a super helpful tutorial on mindful breathing, watch this.)
2. Take your first two bites like it’s the last time you’ll ever eat this food. If someone told you that turkey sandwiches were going to be extinct tomorrow, and that today’s lunch would be the very last time you’d ever eat a turkey sandwich, would you eat your sandwich differently? (Spoiler: I would!) Pretending this is the last bite you’ll ever have of something is a great trick for truly experiencing a food. It helps you to slow down, noticing taste and texture in a whole new way. You can watch a video tutorial on exactly how to do this here. (Sidenote, I love this approach with desserts!)
3. Step away from the screen. Mindful eating asks that you bring all of your attention to your food and the act of eating. This is impossible if you’re also attempting to watch TV, text, and scroll through Instagram. Remember, multitasking is not effective. Keeping screens out of site while you’re eating removes a distraction, helping you really focus on what you’re eating. If you’ve got a habit of eating in front of the TV, challenge yourself to sit at the table a few times this week. No screens allowed.
4. Put it on a plate. Have you ever eaten chips out of the bag, thinking you were just having a few, only to find your fingers grazing the bottom of the bag, wondering where all the chips went? (No? Just me?) It’s hard to be aware of food when you can’t actually see it. Put meals on plates and snack in bowls, and be intentional with what and how much you’re eating.
5. Try doing nothing else but eating. Several months ago, I did a little experiment. I ate breakfast without doing anything else. I didn’t watch TV, listen to music, scroll through my phone, or a read a book. I literally just sat down and ate breakfast. It was an eye opening experience, and it helped me realize just how much of a meal I miss when I’m also doing something else. (PS: You can read about my experience here.) While doing nothing but eating probably isn’t feasible for every meal, it’s a cool thing to try once in a while.
Mindful eating isn’t complicated. It’s actually pretty simple. It’s a great way to flex your mindfulness muscle on the regular, and as I mentioned earlier, it has a ton of great benefits.
So what do you say? Are you ready to give mindful eating a try?
PS: Looking for more ways to practice mindfulness? Check out 10 Ways to Practice Mindfulness in a Minute or Less.