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What Is Mindful Eating? 4 Ways To Incorporate It Into Your Life

Fitday Editor

Do you eat standing up or from the bag or while on the computer? If you are like most Americans, eating while multitasking is part of your lifestyle. So think about this -- how can you really be aware of what and how much you are eating if your attention is elsewhere? How do you know when you are full? How do remember what you just ate?

"Mindless” eating can have negative health consequences, such as gas, bloating, digestive issues, weight gain and disruption to hunger and satiety signals. This is why mindful eating is becoming more mainstream in our culture. It’s a way to break away from restriction and learn how to embrace and enjoying food and eating.

What Is Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating is based on the Buddhist concept of mindfulness, which involves being fully aware of what is happening within and around you at the moment. When applied to eating, this means noticing the smells, colors, flavors and textures of your food. It, also, entails eating more slowly, getting rid of distractions, such as the TV or computer, during eating times and letting go of guilt and anxiety over food.

Mindful eating focuses on being present for each sensation that happens during the eating process, such as smelling, chewing, tasting and even swallowing and learning how to listen and trust your body to tell you when you are hungry and full. It is learning how to appreciate what food really taste like and taking the time to savor each bite. When you are eating mindfully, you are in control of your eating and no longer feel the need to be restrictive.

4 Ways To Incorporate Mindful Eating

Only eat while sitting at the table from a plate. No TV, no radio, no computer, just you and your food. Make your meal more like a fine dining instead of a drive-thru experience.

1. Eat with your non-dominant hand.

You want to slow down the eating process so you can truly chew each bite. The goal should be to take at least 20 minutes to eat your meal.

2. Rate your hunger.

Before you take a bite, rate your hunger on a scale from 1 to 10 with 1 being not hungry at all and 10 being “if I don’t eat right now, I will die.” If you are eating at a hunger level less than 4, you are most likely eating out of habit or boredom. It’s okay to eat for those reasons as long as you are aware and making the conscious decision to do so.

3. Try to decide what is really going to satisfy you.

Don’t just grab what is nearest to you, but instead ask yourself, Do I want something salty or sweet? Hot or cold? When you are able to truly decipher what you want and eat that, you are less likely to overeat. If you really want ice cream, then go ahead and eat it slowly without guilt. You will find a small amount will be satisfying when it isn’t treated like a “forbidden” fruit.

4. Remember your last bite.

Eat your favorite food last so you remember that food and feel more satisfied. This helps prevent you from going back for more food.

Eating mindfully takes practice and might seem like a lot of hard work. You might be tempted to say “I would rather just go low-carb for a few weeks to drop the pounds,” but mindful eating is about more than losing weight. It’s about developing a healthy relationship with food and eating. Life’s too short to not experience that!

Joanne Perez, MS, RDN, LD is a Savannah-based dietitian who, after 20 years of food service and clinical dietetics, made the switch to nutrition communications and all things tech. She doesn't believe in diets and thinks that life is too short to be anything but happy and healthy at any weight. Read her blog, Real Bite Nutrition, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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