How many times have you wolfed down a meal so quickly your body barely registers that you even ate? It’s a sad consequence of our fast-paced society, but you don’t have to be a Zen master to learn the art of eating consciously, which carries the happy side effect of losing weight.
One mindful practice that can help you get a handle on emotional eating is to ask yourself what you’re really hungry for in the moment you are blindly grabbing for something salty or sweet. Are you bored? Lonely? Feeling overwhelmed? At this point is it just a habit? By shedding light on the real reason you’re snacking, you can begin to unravel the underlying cause of your hunger and take steps to find true fulfillment—outside of food.
Another side effect of the abundance of food at our disposal is that we’re grazing all day long and have lost touch with our body’s innate signals of hunger. In addition, studies show when our mind is tuned out during mealtime, the digestive process may be 30% to 40% less effective. This can contribute to digestive distress, such as gas, bloating and bowel irregularities. To become more mindful, make mealtimes a time to feel nourished by:
Preparing more food at home. Food that you’ve lovingly prepared tastes much better for the effort. If cooking is foreign to you, take baby steps. Find a few easy, healthy recipes and make them on the weekend before you venture into weekday cooking. Before long, it’ll become habit!
Giving thanks before you eat. Taking time to express gratitude, whether silently or aloud, at the start of each meal forces you to slow down. It also helps calm you down, which leads to more efficient digestion.
Saying no to multitasking! Put the Crackberry, magazine, or computer away at mealtime. Eat at the table, not in front of the TV, and focus on your dinner company and what’s on your plate.
Chewing your food. Inhaling your food prevents you from benefitting from the first stage of digestion, which starts in the mouth with chewing and the creation of saliva. When you thoroughly chew your morsels (we’re talking at least 30 times for each bite; more if you’re eating meat), your body thanks you by giving you more energy that would normally be used up digesting the partially chewed food.
Making the meal last. Eat for at least 20 minutes, longer if possible, and remember to breathe between bites.
Making your meal an experience. Savor flavors, hone your senses, and pay attention to the mouth-feel and aromas of the food you eat. As you place your attention here, you’ll find your taste buds open up to respond and everything tastes a little bit brighter.
Taking these steps will help you to feel more connected to the food that sustains you. Better yet, you’ll begin to drop pounds and enjoy eating again! It’s one of the best-kept weight-loss secrets.