When talking about healthy eating, we often think about what foods to eat and what foods to avoid. Have you ever thought that how you eat could be just as important as what you are eating? This is mindful eating. It’s being aware of why, when, what, where and how much you eat. Mindful eating can be a powerful technique for weight management and glycemic control.
Mindful eating is being present in the moment and focusing on the eating process. The benefits of mindful eating include making healthier choices, slower rate of eating, awareness of portion sizes, eating less by listening to our bodies hunger and satiety cues, enjoying food more, and increased satisfaction after eating. These benefits will also improve glycemic control.
Too often we practice mindless eating. Mindless eating is eating while watching TV, reading your phone or a magazine, or catching up on work emails. To decide if you are a mindful or mindless eater, answer these questions:
- Do you eat quickly (less than 20 minutes)?
- Do you eat with any distractions- TV, phone, computer?
- Do you snack unconsciously on available foods?
- Do you eat what’s convenient or available instead of planning meals?
If you answered yes to any of these questions you are mindless eating.
To start eating mindfully, ask yourself these questions:
- Why do I eat?
Too often we eat for reasons other than hunger including habits, stress, sadness, celebration, or boredom.
- When do I eat?
Pay attention to your bodies cues of hunger, satiety, or fullness. Eat when you are hungry and stop when you are satisfied not full. Eating on a regular schedule can decrease overeating.
- How do I eat?
Make time to eat a meal so that you aren’t rushed. To slow down your rate of eating, try eating with chopsticks or your non-dominant hand. Avoid distractions and focus on the food itself-how it tastes, feels, sounds, and how nourishing it is for your body.
- Where do I eat?
Food should be eaten while sitting down at a table without distractions. Avoid eating in a bedroom, living room, or vehicle.
- How much do I eat?
Pay attention to portion sizes. To control portions use smaller plates or bowls. Avoid eating foods from the package.
There are many websites, books, and apps to learn more about mindful eating. Start with some small changes and start to eat mindfully. What you eat is important but so is how you eat it.