Here's the scenario- It’s dinner time. You are starving. The food looks and smells delish. You cannot wait to consume. You take one amazing bite and then another, and next thing you know your plate is empty. Time and your food seemed to have disappeared. Still hungry, you head back for a second helping. Oh, and did I mention that this all happened in the first 10 minutes of an episode of Orange is the New Black? If this sounds familiar, you might benefit from some Mindful Eating exercises.
Many of us pair up our meals with other activities such as watching TV, working on the computer, reading the Facebook news feed, or shoveling food into the mouths of our babies- ALL things that distract us from the very important act of eating. What happens when we tune in to the food itself and tune out the rest of the world (aka - Mindful Eating)?
Well, studies have shown that people who practice this meditative act are less likely to overeat. By taking your time and acknowledging the food that nourishes you, you allow your body to send the appropriate signals to your mind. While eating mindfully, one is able to receive the "I'm full" signal well before they decide to go back for seconds. The benefits are vast- smaller waistlines, less guilt and stress surrounding food, and a more enjoyable overall eating experience.
Mindful eating has been gaining popularity over the last few years. There a books, website, studies, classes, and retreats to reshape our thoughts on food and how we consume it. No matter where you are in the world right now you can find help exploring Mindful Eating. The Center for Mindful Eating has a great website with lots of helpful resources. Not ready to give up your nightly dinner and a movie ritual just yet? Try these simple exercises to see if Mindful Eating is for you.
Pick a small piece of food. It could be a raisin, an almond, or a tiny piece of popcorn. Place it in front of you on the table. Before you eat it ask yourself these questions- How does this nourish me? Where did this come from? Who has helped bring this piece of food to my table? What is its texture? What is its smell? What will it taste like? After meditating on those questions. Slowly, indulgently eat the piece of food. Savor it and take note of the taste, texture, and depth. Now tell me that one bite wasn't a more quality experience than usual?
Sit down to dinner and for the first 5 minutes of the meal do NOTHING but eat. Put away all electronics, turn off the music, and stop all conversations. Concentrate on the food. Again, indulge and savor every bite. Just for 5 minutes. If you enjoy it (and find that you are eating less), maybe increase the time. Maybe try the whole meal in silence!
Chew your food 20 to 30 times with each bite. This way you have time to observe, savor, and contemplate what you are eating. Even if you cannot commit to eating your whole meal this way, try a few bites in the beginning. It will take you longer to eat, and hopefully you will be open to the signals your body may be sending you.
Special thanks to Dr. Tumi Johnson who inspired this Mindful eating blog post. Last month our community event "Achieving and Maintaining Your Ideal Weight: New Perspectives" opened my eyes to this new approach. For more on Tumi visit her website: http://drtumijohnson.com/