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10 Ways to Practice Mindful Eating

Mindful eating can help you making healthier choices, control portion sizes, and more fully enjoy your food.

Learn how to practice mindful eating to help you establish healthy eating habits for a lifetime. Mindful eating has been shown to be a key factor in making overall healthy dietary choices.

Don’t Skip Meals

Letting yourself get too hungry makes it more difficult to practice mindful eating because your inhibitions are lowered when you are famished. This could cause you to reach for the nearest, and not always healthiest, foods. Vending machines and fast-food joints ensure quick relief when hunger strikes, but it goes against mindful eating. Eating meals and snacks in a rhythmic daily routine will ensure you stay in tune with your body’s innate hunger and satiety cues and allows you to be more mindful with your food choices.

Eat in a Pleasant Environment

Enjoy your food in a well-lit area. Open up the blinds to let some sunshine in, or better yet, dine al fresco! Dining outdoors is associated with feelings of happiness — just avoid eating while hurriedly walking as this actually distracts you from your food. Also, invest in comfortable seating and be sure to adjust your thermostat to a temperature that is comfortable for you. Feeling cold actually causes you to eat more.

Unplug

Turn off the television, computer, or laptop, and put your cell phones down. I promise you will not die without them. Being constantly stimulated with your electronic devices could be numbing you to your surroundings and your body’s intrinsic hunger and satiety cues. Listen to calming music, or better yet, enjoy meals with your favorite people to develop more mindful eating habits.

Start Small--Literally

Set yourself up for mindful eating success by starting with the right sized plate. Use a nine-inch plate rather than larger ten to twelve-inch plates. This trick will help you become aware of what a normal portion looks like and makes you more mindful of just how much food you should be eating. This is especially helpful if you belong to the “clean your plate” club, one in which the members tend to eat everything on their plates regardless of how much food there is or how full they may already be.

It Makes Sense Use All Your Senses

Eating is one of the few activities in life that involves all of your senses. Take time to truly appreciate the enticing aromas and the variety of textures of your food. Notice the vivid colors and sounds of your food. You could even imagine that it is your first bite ever of a particular dish. Your sense of taste — while important —is not the only one you should rely on when you eat.

Take Smaller Bites

Take smaller bites of food. In fact, I recommend you buy smaller spoons and forks to make this easier because the larger the utensil the more food you tend to load it up with. It is not only plates, bowls, and cups that have become supersized over the decades--our utensils have gotten bigger as well. Using smaller utensils is a quick, simple strategy to help you take smaller bites.

Chew Slowly

Chew each bite of your food thoroughly — between twenty and forty times. Chewing longer will allow you to release more of the food’s complex flavors. Chew your food to the point that it is almost liquid. This will help you appreciate more flavors as well as slow down the eating process. Another benefit? It aids in digestion and helps prevent gas that can be caused by swallowing too much air when wolfing down food too fast.

Set Down Your Fork or Spoon

Rather than shoveling in your food as many have become accustomed to doing in today’s fast-paced world, take the time to set down your fork or spoon in between bites. This will enable you to more fully appreciate the tastes, textures, and aromas of each bite of food.

Take a Sip of Water Between Bites

After every bite, take a sip of water or other non-caloric beverage. This will help slow your pace of eating as well as keep you hydrated and aid in digestion. Additionally, keeping your mouth moist will allow you to taste more of the food’s flavor and prevent choking.

Follow the Eighty Percent Rule

Adopt an eating practice that is used in Japan, particularly in Okinawa. You may have heard that Okinawa, Japan, is an area of the world with the most centenarians — people who live to be one hundred years old or older. Much of this unique trend is attributed to their eating behaviors, particularly their observance of “hara hachi bu”, which means eating until you feel about eighty percent full and stopping. Avoid the clean your plate mentality that has steered us so far away from mindful eating. Take mental note throughout your meal of how full you are feeling and stop at about eighty percent. Who knows — it may just help you live to be 100 years old!


[Image via iStock/Getty]

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