Seven Simple Steps to Mindful Eating

Tired of riding the diet yoyo? It may be that what you’re eating is not the issue but how you’re eating that’s hindering your results. Bringing mindfulness to your meals can help guide your choices and raise awareness when you’re eating is off-track. Try these simple rules:

    1. Create a ritual. Signal to your body and brain it’s time to focus on the meal. This can be as simple as turning off your technology, washing your hands, and sitting down at the table. Many spiritual traditions incorporate the saying of a  "grace" before eating. This can create a receptive atmosphere for nourishment and connect the body to the greater picture, but grace need not be religious. “I am grateful for this food and the loving hands that produced it,” is a lovely way prepare to eat. Ending your meal with a similar statement such as, “My meal is finished. My body is satisfied, " can similarly signal the body that it’s time to stop eating.
    2. Put your food on a plate. Sounds so simple, but who hasn’t eaten standing up at the counter, sitting at the desk at work, or driving from activity to activity?
    3. Eat on purpose and with purpose. If you don’t mean to eat it, don’t eat it. We’re talking unplanned food: Conference-room donuts; the candy dish on the counter at the doctor's office; mindless TV munching; and the endless sample selection at the big box store.
    4. Experience one bite at a time. After taking a bite of food, put your fork down while you chew. Do not use the time you’re chewing to line up your next bite. This may sound easy, but trust me, it isn't!
    5. Chew every bite 30 times. Yes, count to 30. Digestion starts in the mouth when salivary enzymes begin to break the food down into smaller molecules. For maximal digestion food should be almost liquefied before you swallow it. This will also slow you down enough to realize you’re full. Eventually, you won’t need to count because insufficient chewing will not feel right.
    6. Notice what's interfering with the experience of your food. Classic mindful eating guides tell you to cease all other activities—reading, watching TV, etc. Many also advise silent meals, which you should definitely try sometime. (It’s an awesome practice.) But life is complicated. Meals shared with family and friends are a great way to spend time. To the extent possible, then, focus 100% of your attention on your food. When there’s no time for a sit-down affair make it as mindful as possible. Use a plate and chew each bite thoroughly. Pause at regular intervals and say to yourself, “I am aware that I am eating. I am tasting my food.”
    7. Eat solely to feed your body, rather than using food to zone out or escape from unpleasant feelings. Paying attention will allow you to make better choices about your eating behavior. Notice when you use food to fill a gap, soothe a nerve, or reward yourself for an unpleasant task. And need we discuss ice cream straight from the tub after a break up?

While the goal of mindful eating is not weight loss, many people find that once they take the time to savor their food, digestion is enhanced and they are satisfied eating less. 

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