Mindfulness: a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.
Being mindful isn’t terribly difficult. Unfortunately, with the hustle and bustle of modern life, it is often a forgotten practice. When it comes to eating, many meals are prepared and eaten in a rush, leaving little time for appreciation. Eating quickly and mindlessly leads to overeating and missing out on the joys of food, leaving you wanting more. Now is the time to retrain yourself to eat mindfully.
Prepare to be mindful
If you, like many of us, don’t have enough time to cook and eat in a mindful manner, make time. Try these time-saving tips so you can put your focus where it needs to be.
- Shop all at once. Don’t hit the grocery store daily to decide what’s for dinner. Buy what it takes for the week all at once. You will likely save a half hour or more daily that you can now dedicate to mindful food prep and eating.
- Organize yourself. A disorganized mess of a kitchen is hardly an inspiration to make and enjoy a delicious meal.It may actually cause you more stress. Try and keep dishes from piling up in the sink, organize your cookware for easy access to things you use most and keep your counters clear.
- Mindfulness starts early. Planning your meals early in the morning sets you up for success all day. Pack snacks and lunch to avoid vending machines and fast food menus later in the day. Not only will you make healthier choices, you will not waste time figuring out what to eat. No time in the am? Try getting up 15 minutes earlier to make time, or prep the night before.
Mindfulness on the go
Sometimes extra time just doesn’t make itself available. The kids have sports to get to or you have stay late at work. That’s life, but it doesn’t have to be a diet killer.
- Have on-the-go snacks ready to go. Keep a bag of nuts or fruit bar in your bag or desk drawer for when unexpected events make it tough to eat healthy.
- One minute mindfulness. Whatever you’re doing, if you are eating, make a point to take a break. Stop working for a minute and eat your snack. If you’re in the car, continue driving, but turn off the radio and try focusing on your snack instead.
What to focus on when being mindful
- Are you really even hungry. Evaluate this by focusing on your hunger cues. When was the last time you ate? Are you thirsty? Are you just bored? Try drinking a glass of water and re-evaluate in a few minutes.
- What are you eating? This is more for the meal prep phase. Ask yourself if what you are preparing is good for your body. Eat regularly throughout the day to avoid snap decisions when you are starving. You can even opt to have a light snack if you’re really hungry, then figure out what’s for dinner with a clearer head. Having your meals planned for the week will also greatly reduce ‘hangry’ decisions.
- Serve yourself a small portion. Grab a smaller plate and take samples of all of your dishes.
- Focus on the flavor and texture. Put your fork down between bites, only continue when you have swallowed. Pay attention to how the food smells, how it tastes, the mouth feel. Eat slowly, allowing your body’s natural hunger cues to kick in.
- Stop! Evaluate your level of hunger about half way through. Growing up, most kids were told to finish whatever was on their plate. If you are still truly hungry, finish it, but don’t eat the rest for the sake of cleaning your plate.
- Do you want seconds? If you followed suggestion 3, you may not have grabbed enough food. Re-evaluate again. Is grabbing another round really necessary?
- Mindfulness doesn’t end when the dishes are done. Focus on how you feel both immediately after eating, even the next day. Mindfulness is a great tool to determine if specific foods or food groups cause you discomfort. You can then make a choice to optimize your wellness by limiting those foods.
Mindfulness can be applied to all aspects of life. Being present in the moment when having conversations and completing tasks can create more satisfaction in life. Slow down, really think about what you are doing, and who you surround yourself with.