Being Mindful During Meals

Joyce Kavaras, RD, LD

Joyce Kavaras, RD, LD

April 5th, 2013

You may have noticed new signage and items in UH cafeterias with the Mindful logo. Sodexo is definitely on to something here! A recent review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that simply paying more attention or being more mindful while eating can help you better manage your weight and health. That sounds simple enough and not too strenuous, so sign me up!

Simply defined, mindful eating means being “present” (not distracted) while you are eating. We Americans are busy multi-taskers; we eat while driving, working at our desks, in front of the TV, while reading, typing up emails – you get the picture. Unfortunately, distracted eating sets us up to be overeaters who are all too often surprised when our hand reaches for more chips, cookies, [insert any food here] only to find the bag, box, or container empty! Not only does our brain not fully register these mindlessly consumed foods, we do not feel satisfied and will eat more later on in search of satisfaction. Not exactly the formula for weight management!

Now’s the time to hop on the mindful eating bandwagon, and here’s how. Each time you are about to eat:

  • Determine what you want to eat and why.
  • Recall your last meal and snack in detail – how did the food taste and smell? How did you feel afterwards?
  • Determine if you are physically hungry or if it is boredom, stress or fatigue that has you reaching for that cookie.
  • Practice noticing your natural hunger and fullness cues – the more you are “in the moment” when eating, the more you will learn to recognize these cues.
  • Do not be judgmental – just notice your behavior as a scientist would neutrally observe his/her subject in a study – this is a must!
  • Ponder how the item was made and prepared, what nourishment it provides.
  • Be attentive to every bite – notice taste, color, smell, and texture of each bite, and how it feels to chew and swallow – this will naturally slow down your eating too.
  • Watch this video for a practice session using a raisin. It will seem strange at first, but this is what mindful eating is all about!

Practicing mindfulness is not about losing weight – although that may naturally follow. It is about taking good care of yourself by becoming aware of automatic behaviors and habits around food that contribute to poor health. Once we become aware and stay in the present moment, we can focus on what we are willing to change in order to feel our best. Mindfulness allows us to achieve optimal satisfaction and pleasure from our eating experiences and teaches us to pay attention to our body’s natural hunger and fullness cues. The next time you see the Mindful signs and choices in the cafeteria, let that cue you to pay attention to the whole process of eating your meal, and see if you don’t feel more satisfied, enjoy your food more, and eat less too.

Questions? Comments? Share your thoughts here.

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