It is a simple fact that human beings need to eat to survive. While the act of eating is supposed to be a pleasurable and healthy activity used to satisfy hunger, it has unfortunately become quite the opposite - unhealthy, mindless, and sometimes even pointless. You might be wondering, “Well, then what is mindful eating?” It’s simply eating with the intention of fueling your body and taking care of yourself, with the attention needed to recognize, acknowledge, and enjoy your food and its effect on your body and mind. It’s important that we try our hardest to be more mindful of our eating habits in order to live an overall healthier life. Although it may seem difficult at first, each of the following 5 ways to be more mindful of your eating habits can be easily overcome with enough practice and commitment.
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So often, people fill their plates with more food than they can even handle - or should handle, anyway - and then they feel obligated to finish it all, simply because it’s right in front of them. To avoid this, start with small, moderate portions on your plate. If you finish all of that, wait a little while for it to settle, to see if you are actually still hungry before moving onto seconds. You may find that your first serving was, indeed, enough to fill you up. If not, use this same type of self-control to serve yourself just a little bit more. Choosing smaller portions is essential for mindful eating, as it helps you to make a conscious effort to eat in moderation.
Eating slowly is another way to be mindful of your eating habits. Specifically, it makes you aware of how much you’re eating at a time, which, in turn, helps to prevent overeating. One way to eat slowly is to chew each and every bite very thoroughly, until it has turned to mush, or even liquid, in your mouth. A number to shoot for, in terms of chews, is at least 20, and even more for tougher foods. Another way to eat slowly is to set your utensils down in between bites. This will make for a more relaxed and enjoyable meal, as well. Overall, eating slowly makes it easier to tell when you’re satisfied so that you can stop eating before you eat too much. You should never eat to the point of feeling completely stuffed and full. If you’ve done this, you’ve overeaten. Instead, eat slowly, take your time, and stop when you feel that you’ve had just about enough.
Consume small, healthy snacks in between meals, and by all means - don’t skip meals! Skipping meals can make it very difficult to make mindful choices when it comes to food and eating habits. When we become so hungry that our hunger takes over, we tend to grab whatever is closest or easiest at the time, whether it be fast food from a drive thru, a candy bar from a vending machine, or what have you. Meal planning can greatly help with making sure you eat often enough. At the beginning of the week, plan out what you are going to have each day, for each meal, including snacks. This will cut down on feelings of extreme hunger, grazing (eating a little bit here and there), overeating, and unhealthy eating in general.
Sounds funny, right? But, it’s actually more important than you might think, especially when you’re trying to be more mindful of your eating habits. Sitting down at a table has a way of drawing attention (your own attention) to your food choices and your eating habits. This is also true of putting your food on a plate. Seeing your food on a plate in front of you will help you to acknowledge everything you’re eating and how much of it you’re eating. Turning off the TV and putting away all of the electronics will help with this, as well. Getting rid of all of these distractions allows you to focus on your food, with all of your senses. Not to mention, it makes it so much easier for you to actually enjoy your meal!
While many people keep a food journal when they’re trying to count calories or lose weight, keeping a log of your food is also a great idea for anybody who’s trying to be more mindful of what they’re eating, and of their eating habits in general. A food journal is a great way to assist with your meal planning, as you can log all of your details in here - even your grocery lists! You should also keep track of the times that you eat, what exactly you eat, and how you feel when you eat. You can even consider rating your hunger level each time you eat.