We live in a fast-paced society. We’re constantly on the go, and we prefer convenience and short cuts. Don’t get me wrong, I get caught up in the chaos, too. As a graduate student, dietetic intern, and part-time employee, I understand what it’s like to be so busy that sitting down for a meal can feel like a burden and a waste of time. Too often I find myself driving through Chick-fil-A just to scarf down dinner in my car between running errands, but usually I’m left feeling unsatisfied.
I recently had a conversation with Sherry about the idea of “mindful eating”. We talked about how our mindset while eating can sometimes be more impactful on our overall health than the types of foods we’re actually consuming. For example, is eating a cupcake, but really taking the time to savor and enjoy the cupcake, healthier than miserably and hastily eating a kale salad? Don’t get me wrong… I’m a dietitian (in training), so I love nutrition! I want people to nourish their bodies well with good, wholesome foods. BUT I don’t want people to sacrifice enjoying food or to compromise their emotional and mental health for the sake of being “healthy”.
I was still pondering this concept of eating mindfully when I ran across a special edition of Time Magazine titled “Mindfulness”. The magazine touched on various ways to practice mindfulness, why it is so important, and how it impacts our health. (Go grab a copy if you’re interested! It’ll be on stands until April.) One of the last articles in the magazine discusses mindful eating and why it may be a more effective weight loss tool than typical dieting. In one study that compared mindful eating to dieting, both groups lost a similar amount of weight, but the mindful eaters had better HDL cholesterol, triglyceride, and blood glucose levels after the study was completed. One reason the article gives for the success of mindful eating is that mindful eating teaches the person how to listen to and understand his or her own hunger cues, while dieting is basically a set of do’s and don’ts.
I love that idea of listening to your body and allowing it to tell you what it does or doesn’t need. It’s one of the main reasons why I’m drawn to mindful eating. Another reason why I’m a fan of mindful eating is because it forces you to be intentional about meal time. You have to be intentional about mapping out time in the day to sit and focus on eating, which means no computers, phones, or other distractions. You also have to think about what you’re eating, which will lead to better food choices. It’s much easier to scarf down a bag of potato chips when you’re not really thinking about it. But when you’re being mindful and paying attention to what you’re eating, chances are you’ll realize that a whole bag of chips is not the best choice.
So how do you eat mindfully? After doing some research, here are some tips that I think will help you to become a more intentional and mindful eater:
- SLOW DOWN! Have you ever eaten so fast that you forgot whether you actually ate or not? Your gut and your brain are in a pretty serious relationship, but they’re sometimes not the best at communicating. Your brain may need a little while to realize that your gut has been trying to say “we’re full now- please stop shoveling food into your mouth!” I know you’re busy, but can you give yourself an extra 10 minutes to really savor your lunch? Try taking one bite at a time and really chew your food. Think about what you’re eating- how it smells, feels, and tastes. Really take the time to appreciate and enjoy your food.
- Sit down. Preferably at a table, and not at your desk or in your car. Studies have shown that this may help you to be more aware of when you are full and don’t need any more food.
- Get rid of the distractions. Turn off the TV, shut down the computer, and put the phone away. I know it might not feel like it, but the world will keep spinning, even if you disconnect for 20 minutes to enjoy a meal. I’m a millennial, so I get the struggle, I promise. But doing away with the distractions during mealtime is beneficial on so many levels! This will help you focus on what you’re doing, allowing you to really experience your food and feel satisfied when you’re done. It will give you a mental break. Working all day can be stressful, but taking time to think about nothing but the food you’re consuming may be just the respite you needed to push through the rest of the day. It is also great for relationships. Getting rid of distractions and taking time to actually enjoy someone’s company over a shared meal is one of the most thoughtful things you can do in today’s world.
Guide for whole body mindful eating
Maybe you’re tired of failed diets and want to try something new. Maybe you just want to experience and enjoy life more, starting with taking the time to savor each meal. Whatever the reason, mindful eating may be just the breakthrough you’ve been looking for. I encourage you to be intentional about your meals this week. Take time to savor each bite, and let food do what it is intended to do- nourish!
If you’d like more information on mindful eating, or mindfulness in general, check out the sources below.
Megan is a dietetic intern for Samford University and is currently pursuing a master of science degree in Nutrition. She is passionate about helping people to nourish their bodies well with proper nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. You can follow Megan on Instagram @megeliseandrews.
Time Magazine Special Edition- Mindfulness, The New Science of Health and Happiness