I have to admit, of all of the situations to be mindful in, meal time (snack time, party time, appetizer time) is one of the very hardest for me.
It seems as though I am hungry OFTEN and I am unusually preoccupied with food.
Can you relate?
Some of this is absolutely physiological and perpetually hungry people can be better served by reducing sugar, limiting processed foods and increasing fruits and vegetable intake.
But this article isn’t about WHAT to eat. I want to talk about HOW to eat. I want us all to find a practice that works best for each individual since we all have different relationships to food based on our childhood habits, body type and life experiences.
There is definitely something mental going on as well as physically as we are driven to eat more than our body needs, and this is where a mindfulness practice can help tremendously.
When I REMEMBER to be mindful, these quick tips help me focus on not eating more than is healthy for me:
1 – Count your bites. Some people like to have a goal of 20-40 chews, but just the act of counting until your food is thoroughly chewed can slow down your eating and increase mindfulness.
2 – Save food for meal time only. One of my favorite eating tips I’ve ever come across is the No S Diet*. This simple, but fascinating book encourages no snacks, sweets or seconds on days that do not start with the letter S. So Saturday, Sunday, and Special occasions you can loosen up the rules and have something to look forward to. This doesn’t work for everyone, but for people who need more structure around their eating habits, this can be a good place to start.
3 – Use a sensory exercise. Before you start your meal, go through your five senses as it relates to what you are eating. How does it look and smell? How does the utensil or napkin feel in your hand or what do you think your food feels like to touch? Listen to the sounds around you then of course TASTE your food and describe the flavors and textures in your head. This is a great way to mindfully eat and focus on the meal at hand.
4 – Give thanks for your meal before eating. This doesn’t have to be religious or spiritual in nature if that’s not your thing, but focusing on gratitude as you sit down to a nutritious meal will help remind you to take care of yourself and eat responsibly.
5 – Know your WHY. Along the gratitude line, taking a mindful moment to remember WHY you want to eat responsibly can trigger inspiration to make the meal count towards your health goals. List out the reasons you want to be healthier such as more energy, being a positive role model for someone, improving a health marker or fitting better into your jeans.
We recommend giving all of these exercises a try and see which one works best for you in the moment.
Different things will work for us at different stages of our life and some practices may not work at all.
Next time you feel like you’re not in control of how much you’re eating, make it a point to try something different. As long as we are always trying we are moving in the right direction!
Good luck and HAPPY MINDING!
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