When people find out I am a dietitian, the first thing they want to know is what to eat. It makes sense, I suppose – I am a DIET-itian. Meal plans are the most sought after and the one thing most dietitians are most reluctant to give. Think about it. If it was that easy, everyone would get a meal plan and everyone would be healthy or thin or buff. So much information leans toward what to eat or what not to eat. Has anyone ever asked you about why you eat? Or how you eat? Have you ever asked yourself those questions?
Eating when you’re bored, sad or mad, munching a whole bag of chips while binge-watching Netflix or scarfing down food when you’re already full can result in poor health. Whether you’re trying to lose weight, manage disease or live a healthier lifestyle, negative nutrition behaviors affect your mind, body and spirit. Understanding these behaviors is a considerable task that is well worth the effort, whatever your goal may be.
Mindful eating means eating with complete awareness and being present in the moment. This involves being aware of your food, your body and your emotions before, during and after you eat. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommend these mindful eating techniques:
– Slow down: Chew your food until the food is liquefied. This not only slows your intake but it also aids digestion. Take smaller bites by using chopsticks or a baby spoon. My personal favorite is putting your fork, spoon or chopsticks down between each bite. It really does take 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain you’ve had enough, so use this time wisely and slow down.
– Notice your food: Take the time to notice the appearance, aroma, taste, texture and sounds of what you are eating. Is it salty or bitter? Crunchy? Does it smell delicious? Enjoy the moments you spend eating your food.
– Decrease distractions: This is a biggie – no screens during meal times. Wherever you eat, at home or at work, turn off your device and only eat in places away from televisions or computer screens, like the dining table or break room. Eating while driving is also a definite no-go. Driving is a distraction from proper digestion. If you’re pressed for time, stop somewhere and take the time to notice your food.
– Notice your body: How do you feel before you eat? Are you really hungry or is something else driving you to the fridge? Maybe a walk around the block or writing in a journal would serve you better. Notice how you feel after each bite (preferably after you have put your fork down and are chewing until liquefied). Find that point of fullness and satisfaction. Ask yourself, “Do I really need this next bite, or am I mindlessly eating it because it is in front of me?” After a meal, give gratitude that you have nourished your body to the best of your ability, especially in a world where many go without.
Taking these steps forces you to slow down and concentrate on what you’re eating. Next thing you know, you’re full, you have eaten less and you have really enjoyed the food you have eaten. When was the last time that truly happened?