How often do you get to the end of your meal and not remember tasting it? Learn how to help conquer mindless eating and establish a healthy relationship with food.
Did you really enjoy every bite of that big bucket of popcorn you had at the movies – the one that left you with a bellyache?
Do you even remember what you had for breakfast?
Whether plowing through a bag of cookies or wolfing down a sandwich at lunch, many of us are out of touch with our body’s sense of hunger and fullness. The pleasures of eating get lost as well when we don’t pay attention. This is known as “mindless eating.”
Mindless eating can leave you feeling unsatisfied with your food, and more importantly, may lead to overeating and obesity.
A health risk
Some experts believe that mindless eating is contributing to the nation’s obesity problem. Obesity, in turn, raises a person’s risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain forms of cancer.
Ask yourself these questions:
- How often do you feel physical signs of hunger (such as a growling stomach) before you eat?
- How often do you find yourself multitasking while eating (driving, walking, working, watching television, shopping online, etc.)?
- How often do you stop eating when you feel yourself getting full?
Many Americans don’t pay attention to what or how they are eating. This may place them at higher risk for health problems related to excess weight.
Food for thought: The art of mindful eating
Mindful eating is the opposite of mindless eating. Though it can take quite a bit of practice, eating mindfully may lead to a more satisfying and healthy relationship with food and eating.
To start, mindful eating may help raise your physical awareness of food. You’ll appreciate a food’s taste, smell, texture and how it feels in your body. It involves learning to be aware of cues that you are hungry or full, too. This helps to guide your decision about when to begin eating – and when to stop.
You’re eating mindfully when:
- You focus all your senses on preparing and eating the food. Whenever your thoughts move away from your food, you gently bring yourself back.
- You avoid criticizing your food or yourself. If you have a judgmental thought (“This cake will make me fat”), let it go and refocus on your food. The key here is to have a small piece and truly enjoy it.
Here are some suggestions to get you started:
Eat only when you are hungry. True physical hunger is the best sign that your body needs to replenish. It’s also hard to really savor food if you do not have an appetite. But don’t wait until you’restarving.That will increase the likelihood that you will overeat (and eat too quickly to enjoy it).
Choose food that will satisfy both body and mind. Satisfaction comes not just from having food in your belly, but from really enjoying the taste of your food.
Set the table. Creating a pleasant atmosphere adds to the enjoyment of eating and to your level of satisfaction.
Eat without distractions. Otherwise, you won’t be giving your food or your body’s signals your full attention. As a result, you may feel full but not satisfied, and will be much more likely to overeat.
Eat while sitting down. Try not to eat while standing over the sink or peering into the refrigerator.
Take a few breaths before eating. This will help you slow down and give eating your full attention.
Appreciate your food. Savor the colors, textures and aromas in every bite. Put your fork down between bites and be conscious of all the different sensations you are experiencing.
Eat the most appetizing food first. If you save the best until last, you may end up eating it, even if you are full.
Push your plate away or get up from the table as soon as you feel satisfied. When you eat mindfully, you may be satisfied with less. And you can always eat again when hunger strikes.
One of the greatest benefits of mindful eating is that it’s contagious. You may find yourself becoming more mindful during other activities too. Living “in the moment” may even help increase your enjoyment of everyday life – meal or no meal.