Why you should focus on how and why you eat.

Have you ever had a meal or snack that you really looked forward to? That first bite is pure enjoyment, but do you enjoy the other bites nearly as much, or is that feeling gone too quickly? Mindful eating focuses your attention on the present moment by paying close attention to taste, texture, and sensation. When you eat mindfully, you can savor each bite and get more enjoyment out of your food. You’ll get in tune with your body’s reactions, which will help you eat just the right amount and type of food you need.

 

The next time time you take your first bite, ask yourself the following.

  • What does it smell like—is it sweet or savory?
  • Does it look appetizing?
  • Does it make any noise when you cut it, or put your fork in it? What about while you’re chewing it?
  • When you eat, what thoughts come to your mind?
  • Do your thoughts stay focused on the food item?
  • What did you notice while you chew? Do the textures evolve?
  • How long does the food last in your mouth?

 

Each bite doesn’t need to be consumed as meticulously as this when you’re eating, but if you do this with the first bite, you’ll lay the groundwork for mindful eating. I did this exercise with a piece of chocolate. I remember unwrapping the small piece of chocolate and being very excited to eat it. I smelled it first, which increased my anticipation. I then slowly ate it, moving it to all parts of my tongue, noticing as the texture changed from solid chocolate to creamy liquid. I’m a chocoholic, so my craving for the delicious, dark temptation is hardly ever satisfied, but when I did this exercise, I felt extremely content with just the one piece of chocolate, and I didn’t feel the need to eat more. My pleasure from eating it was so intensified that my craving was fulfilled.

 

What are the benefits of eating mindfully?

  • Food becomes something to enjoy, rather than a temptation or a regret.
  • It increases the pleasure you get from eating.
  • It slows down the pace of your meals, allowing your brain time to hear the “I’m full!” signal. It can take twenty minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that you’re full, so eating slowly can help you stop eating before you’re overly full, so it can even help with weight loss.
  • If you eat while you’re distracted, you tend to consume more calories than you need. Have you ever sat down to watch TV with a bag of your favorite treat, then reached your hand in for more only to feel the bottom of the bag? It’s important that you focus on the food, so that you not only get the pleasure out of eating, but so you don’t consume unwanted calories, as well.
  • Some research has shown that when your attention isn’t focused on eating, your digestive process is 30-40% less effective than it should be, which can lead to discomfort from bloating and gas.

 

Another part of Mindful Eating is eating only when you’re really hungry.There are many different types of hunger, other than the physical need for survival. It’s important that you pause and reflect to see what’s triggering your hunger before you indulge.  

  1. “Food porn,” or eye hunger, is the type of hunger you get when you see food that looks appetizing.
  2. Nose hunger is a smell that can entice you to eat.
  3. Mouth hunger happens when your mouth is constantly wanting new flavors and textures. When you aren’t paying attention to your food while you eat, your mouth will feel deprived.  
  4. Stomach hunger. Many feelings can contribute to hunger, but it doesn’t mean that your body necessarily needs fuel. Feelings of anxiety, stress, or longing can all get confused with hunger. Take the time to see if it’s true hunger before you refuel.
  5. Heart hunger. Most unbalanced relationships with food are caused by heart hunger or feelings of emptiness. Because food is comforting, we seek out foods that help us feel happy. However, food is a short-term fix for emotional distress and can lead to a vicious cycle of regret, emotional distress, and comfort eating.

 

Mindful eating may seem like a huge task that requires intense self-reflection. If you aren’t ready for that yet, you can still slow down your meal and be more mindful in several ways:

 

  • Eat sitting down at a table, away from distractions such as your TV, phone, newspapers, computers, and books.
  • Concentrate on your arm movements as you bring your food to your mouth.
  • Chew your food 10-15 times per bite. Pay attention to the taste and texture, and how they change. Swallow when the food is uniformly smooth.
  • Frequently take sips of water during your meal.
  • Put your utensils down between each bite.
  • Never eat out of a container.
  • Put the proper portion sizes of food on your plate, then try to make the meal last twenty minutes before you get more food (to make sure you’re full).    

 

The next time you enjoy a meal or snack, remember to take your time and savor the flavor!

 

Michelle Alley

iFit Nutritionist