Mindful Eating: How to Begin
I remember a time that I was the slowest eater at the table. The person that everyone had to wait to finish eating at restaurants and asking for my ice cream in a bowl since it melted faster than I could finish it. I would also wrap up my dinners to go (no matter if it was ¾ of the meal or a few last bites of a steak.) Looking back, I was a pro at listening to my hunger and fullness without intending to. But the world taught me to speed up and in turn weakened this skill. The first time I can remember that how I ate started to change was in high school. One year lunch would be at 10:30 and other years it could be 1:30. It really got tricky the year it switched every other day between the two. This didn’t exactly fall within the times I would be hungry and was a challenge when factoring in after school activities.
Next in college I was subject to the timing of the classes I needed to take, that three hour lab right at noon, or finding myself on the opposite side of campus from the dining halls when I was the hungriest. Being a nutrition major who worked in the dining hall and also enjoyed cooking- getting in meals was not the issue. But looking back on it the mindfulness certainly fell by the wayside. Eating in classes while taking notes, eating dinner while typing up a paper, rushing to get lunch between a class that ended at 11:50 and one that started at 12:00.
The office environment brings on many of the same challenges to eating mindfully. Our world moves so fast and technology just offers opportunities to be more efficient and more distractions! Do you find yourself working right through lunch? This might be an expectation or it might be the only way to catch up on work that needs to get done. It might also be out of your control as meetings are placed back to back on your schedule.
No matter the stage in life there are many factors involving when and how you eat that might be affecting your mindfulness which in turn affects how much we eat and can lend some explanation to managing a healthy weight and energy levels.
Let’s take a look at how this affects us.
1. Multitasking and eating while distracted in many of these scenarios can:
- Take the joy out of eating
- Lead to finishing your plate rather than being able to listen to your hunger and fullness
- Not feeling satisfied and grazing later in the day
Mindful Eating Challenge:
- Eat somewhere separate from your desk- this can be at another table in your office, cafeteria, break room etc. Tip: bring something you enjoy with you and use the leftover lunch break time to de-stress. Taking the full 30 minutes first to eat mindfully and then de-stress will make your work day more productive.
- To get started with eating mindfully turn off your computer/iPhone/Blackberry/tablet/laptop and enjoy and TASTE your meal for at least the first 10 minutes.
- Ask yourself halfway through your meal “Am I hungry?” or “Am I full?” Take this time to check in with yourself to practice listening to your hunger cues. This will help you have the portion size that fit your metabolism.
2. It is also important to think of meal scheduling and planning which will affect the mindfulness of your meals as well.
- Skipping meals can lead to overeating at the next meal or snack when you come to the table overly hungry. Eating throughout the day also helps you to improve your energy levels, boost concentration and halt feelings of irritability and headaches.
- A rushed time frame to eat can lead to guzzling down your meals. It is true that the brain and your stomach work on a delay. By eating quickly it can be difficult to feel your fullness until after you are finished eating when you may feel uncomfortably full.
Mindful Eating Challenge:
- Treat your lunch as an appointment or meeting you would not miss. Put your lunch on your paper calendar or on your outlook or Google calendar and set alarms to remind you to take the time to nourish your body.
- Plan quick- doable snacks in between meals to work around your schedule if full meals are not an option.
- Set healthy boundaries. If you are the go- to person at work (or home) always doing extra projects and helping others- remember you need to take care of yourself. It is ok to say no!
Interested in learning more about mindful eating? Our Empowered Eating Dietitians can help! Contact us today so we can match you to a dietitian who will help you meet your nutrition goals.