Food for Thought | 5 Easy Ways To Start Eating Mindfully

On this issue of Food for Thought, learn about how you can begin to integrate mindful eating into your meal and snack times.

Your Journey Begins

In a previous issue of Food for Thought, we went over the principles of mindful eating and how it can help us become more aware of what we eat every day.

The truth is, we’re so used to eating with distractions, restricting the time we spend eating, over- or under-eating, and more. It’s difficult to start getting into the habit of awareness, but it all starts with being mindful and learning more about our bodies. When we begin to give ourselves space and time to truly divulge our true desires and work with our body’s movement, we can also begin to pay closer attention to the harm we might be doing to our bodies as well.

Because it’s all about baby steps, here are some easy ways you can get started in mindful eating as you journey forth.

1. Turn Off or Put Away Distractions

Things like TVs, phones, and even books can take us away from the experience of enjoying food. Personally, I’m notorious for pulling out my phone to read or watch videos during meal time. I get antsy when I don’t have anything in front of me but my food, unless I’m with someone and they’re distracting me instead. When we focus our attention away from the food, we can sometimes ignore how much we’re actually eating. Or we might not pick up on the taste and texture if we’re not paying attention to how it affects our senses. You want the food to be a part of your dining experience, not the distraction.

Try putting away your phone for a whole day’s worth of meals by yourself and note how you feel about not having it in front of you. Was there anything you noticed more about your food now that you weren’t distracted?

2. Try Just One Meal

If you’re not ready to commit to mindful eating completely, try doing it for just one meal a day (or even just once a week).

Don’t just completely overhaul your eating habits in one go. Most likely, you’ll just end up reverting back to your old habits if you haven’t gradually built them up in a way that’s natural for your body. Start taking note of your feelings and senses during this trial session and slowly integrate more mindful meals throughout your week. It can be difficult if you’re used to eating with other people as a distraction, but don’t just drop all your engagements with your friends because you’re trying this out. Your relationships with others come first; you can learn how to eat mindfully even among company.

3. Do Self Check-Ins

As I mentioned above, you should be taking note of your feelings and sensations when you eat. But you should also be doing so when you’re not eating. For example, you could ask yourself:

  • Am I hungry, or is my body just thirsty? Am I feeling low on fuel, or am I dehydrated?
  • Is there an emotion that’s affecting my food craving right now? Am I nervous and want comfort food or to not eat at all?
  • If I eat this food, will it make me feel better? Is there another way to take care of myself besides eating this?

4. Be Aware of Your Portions

Especially if you’re eating in a buffet-style setting or at home. Think about your dining experience like fine dining courses. Each meal is its own portion, created for you to enjoy the moment, textures, and tastes, without needlessly consuming food you don’t need to eat.

There are a lot of tricks dietitians may tell you, like eating off of a smaller plate to physically restrict your portion size. You could also put away the rest of the food if it’s family-style. However, nothing is stopping you from going for seconds, even with a smaller plate, except yourself. It’s the mindset that will help you through the experience, not the size of your plate. The real problem lies in simply not paying attention to the amount your body really needs vs. what we think we need.

5. Be Thankful

Put yourself in the mindset of being thankful for your food. Thank the person who made it, the people who grew and harvested the ingredients, and the people that were able to serve the food to you.

When we humanize aspects of our lives, we can start to begin seeing an interconnected world where we can be thankful and gracious to those around us. It’s easy to just eat your meal mindlessly and be satisfied with it. It’s much more difficult to take a step back and be thankful for the experience.

Next Steps

Mindful eating isn’t something you can start overnight, but there are so many ways in which you can begin to shape your mindset right now.

If you’re finding it hard to implement these tips, start by writing down how food makes you feel. Perhaps it makes you satisfied, joyous, relaxed. Then break down those feelings and try to understand why they evoke these emotions in you. When you identify those key motivators, start shifting your thoughts over slowly and give them a human spin:

  • Eating food makes me happy to enjoy good flavors.
    • I am thankful for the people who have created food with good flavors for me to enjoy.
  • Food gives me a chance to relax.
    • I am thankful for the people who have given me this opportunity to relax.
  • Eating interesting food excites me.
    • I am thankful for the people who were able to create something exciting for me to experience.

Over time, you will also feel more in tune with your body, your thoughts, and those who are involved with our lives—even as tangibly as a chef. 🌱