Take a moment to reflect on the last bite of food you consumed. Was it the result of a conscious decision to sit down and enjoy a meal with your family? Was it snacking on the go in order to get to your next meeting on time? Are you having a hard time even remembering what your last bite of food was because you’ve been sitting in your cubicle, staring at the computer for the entire workday? Mindless eating is all too common in our fast-paced society and as a result, we have become disconnected from the joyous act that is eating and providing nourishment for our bodies.
Cue: Mindful eating. Mindful eating is the practice of being fully present while eating, and acknowledging and building a positive relationship with food with respect to your body. By using all five senses, mindful eating becomes a powerful practice comprised of nourishment, appreciation, and the recognition of your own hunger and satiety cues (1).
1. Slow down
It is estimated that a staggering 20% of meals consumed by Americans are eaten in the car (2). It goes without saying that eating meals while dealing with an array of external stimuli (including driving, watching television, playing video games, or working on spreadsheets for your boss that are due at noon) creates a detachment from the act of eating itself. Not only does mindless eating suppress the appreciation for food and recognition of its impact on your body, it also hinders the ability to form a strong, positive relationship with food.
20% of American meals are eaten in a car.
Let’s be honest. How many times have you sat down to watch a movie with a bag of chips and before you know it, you’re complete enthralled with the movie and the chips have magically disappeared! Strengthening your mindful eating skills will simultaneously improve your relationship with food and allow you to reflect on the tendency to consume extra, unintended calories as a result of being distracted.
3. Listen to your body
A vital component of mindful eating is listening to your body. How you’re your body let you know that it’s hungry? How does the food make you feel? How does your body let you know that it’s becoming full?
Consider the following exercise to strengthen your mindful eating skills:
You’ll need: Some pineapple.
1. Turn off external stimuli like the television, silence your phone, and sit comfortably.
2. Pick up a slice of pineapple. Roll it around in your fingers, smell the sweet aromas, admire its fibers and structure.
3. Take one bite of pineapple without chewing it.
4. Close your eyes and try to focus solely on the pineapple. Take a moment to reflect its texture, how it feels in your mouth, how it tastes prior to chewing.
5. Begin slowly chewing while reflecting on the movement of your jaw, power of your teeth, and changes to the flavor, texture, and sensations within your mouth.
6. Remain conscious of how the pineapple transforms in your mouth while chewing and the sensation as you proceed to swallow the pineapple.
7. After swallowing the pineapple, take a moment to appreciate the pineapple for the nourishment you body received and the commencement of your body receiving this nourishment.
Wishing you mindfulness, nourishment, and health,
Stephanie Roque, MS, RD, CD