When was the last time you truly paid attention to what you were eating—when you truly savored the experience of food?
If your life is anything like ours, you often feel like there’s not enough time in the day. Amidst life’s chaos, you tend to rush through eating, barely chewing your food, let alone actually taking the time to connect with your senses and enjoy it.
When your brain is checked out and running on autopilot, you miss the entire euphoric experience that eating has to offer. What happens next? You feel unsatisfied because you didn’t take the time to focus on and appreciate what you were eating. Then, an hour later you feel hungry; those crazy cravings kick in and you’re triggered to eat emotionally.
Mindful eating is about engaging your senses and bringing awareness to the table.
Mindful eating has little to do with the actual calories, carbs, fats or proteins you’re eating and more to do with being present while you’re eating.
In eating more slowly, you savor the flavors, aromas and textures of food. Rather than focusing on restrictions, mindful eating allows you to reconnect with your senses and begin directing your attention to the joy of eating.
No more restrictions
That’s why diet restrictions don’t work—they lead to obsessing over what you can’t have, rather than focusing on enjoying what you can have. Eating should be a positive experience, a celebration of tastes, textures and smells, and something that brings you joy. You wouldn’t want to rush through a good book or a great massage (at least we hope not!), so why do it at mealtime?
When you’re more aware, your mind is calmer and you’re less likely to to eat in an emotional way. You gain a sense of clarity so you’re able to see your patterns of eating, and that clarity frees you to make better choices.
So ask yourself, when it comes to your eating habits, do you go on autopilot or do you bring your senses to the table and appreciate all the delectable details?
Ten Simple Steps to Mindful Eating
Mindful eating doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming; all it entails is food and your attention. Follow these simple steps to tune into your meals:
1. Eliminate distractions so you can focus on your amazing meal.
Some background tunes are okay, but keep your meal time tech, gadget and gizmo free! That means no television, iPhones or eating in front of the computer!
2. Start using your senses as soon as your food is in front of you.
While you’re chopping, combining and cooking, take in the aromas, colors and consistency. Breathe in the fruity citrus smell of a freshly sliced orange. Notice the bright colors and hundreds of dimples delicately pressed into its peel.
3. Bring all your senses to the table!
Whether you’re cooking, serving or eating your food, mentally prepare yourself for an epic food experience.
4. Pause and appreciate your plate.
As soon as your food is served, take a moment to stop and feel grateful for everything and everyone it took to bring this meal together. That steak didn’t just fall out of the sky and grill itself. Take a moment to think about all the hands that helped from farm to table. Remember, gratitude = feelings of goodness.
5. Before jumping in fork first, take notice of the colors and smell of your food.
- What does the food look like? Is your plate filled with vibrant colors and shapes or earthy tones?
- What does your meal smell like? Does it have a sweet and citrusy aroma or is it spicy?
- Try to evaluate what ingredients may have been used to accentuate the flavors.
6. Take that first delectable bite and chew, chew, CHEW!
While you don’t have to masticate your food for days, it’s important to thoroughly chew it. You’ll be surprised at how many flavors you’ll begin to taste. Try chewing at least 20 times before swallowing. The first few times you do this, actually count! You’ll be amazed at how may times you’ve probably swallowed your food without even realizing it’s barely chewed. Where’s the enjoyment in that?
7. Now that you’re chewing, let’s get back to those remaining senses.
- What does each bite sound like? Notice the crunch when you take a bite of toast or the crisp snap when chewing a carrot.
- What does it taste like? Is it sour, bitter, sweet or salty? Distinguish the tangy flavors of a lemon vinaigrette versus the sweetness of a peach.
- What texture is it? While you’re chewing, how does the bite feel? What qualities do you notice with your tongue, palate and teeth? Is it hard, chewy or creamy?
- Take it a step further and try identifying what ingredients and seasonings were used. This is a fun way to get familiar with spices and herbs that complement certain foods. Do you taste the robust flavor of fresh rosemary and notice how well it pairs with chicken?
8. Sit your fork down and pause between bites.
You don’t have to eat at a snail’s pace, but remember, it’s not a race. Whether you’re alone or with company, put your fork down every so often, especially while you’re talking. (This also prevents those embarrassing moments when you’re talking excitedly and your food shoots across the table, landing on someone else’s plate. AHH!)
9. Take your time eating.
Make a goal to spread your meal out over 20 minutes rather than cleaning your plate in 5 minutes flat. It may sound silly, but if you need a timer, grab one and make a game out of it. If all else fails, try chopsticks! Taking your time not only allows you to thoroughly enjoy your meal and digest it better, it gives your body and brain time to signal those “I’m full” receptors so you don’t overeat.
10. Keep up the good work!
While you don’t have to go to this extent every time you eat, it’s important to “slow down and savor the flavor!”
When you explore tastes, textures and smells, you experience not only eating, but enjoying your food. Some added benefits are becoming more aware of your portion sizes and hunger cues, which can help eliminate overeating and help you lose weight. YES!
Take Action Today
- Next time you eat, use the steps above to eat slowly and take smaller bites of food. Savor the flavor and texture of your food while chewing deliberately and give yourself a few seconds before taking another bite.
- If you’re looking for a daily reminder to eat mindfully and make progress toward your wellness goals, check out the Healthy Living Log.
- Need to transform your relationship with food? Check out our proven system, Break Free from Emotional Eating.