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Mindful Eating

Eating Mindfully

by Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

As we ring in the New Year, many will be making New Year’s resolutions about eating healthier, losing weight, and exercising more. These are all important endeavors, but what about how you eat? We focus so much attention on what to eat and what not to eat, but how you eat can be just as important.

We tend to be busy and rush through our meals or eat while distractedly watching TV, surfing the web, or working. This often means we don’t truly experience or enjoy our meals, which may leave us looking for something more to eat. When we’re eating mindfully, we often are more satisfied with less food and can better tune into our body’s hunger and fullness cues. Here are a few tips to get you started with mindful eating:

1. Turn off the TV. Put away your book, phone, laptop, or tablet, and truly experience your food. Most of us have had the experience of sitting in front of the TV with a bowl of chips or popcorn only to look down and find the bowl empty. We’re surprised, because we were so absorbed in the movie or show that we weren’t paying attention to how much we were eating. Since we didn’t adequately experience the chips or the popcorn, we usually want to go back for more. Practice eating your meals at the table without distractions, and see how it can transform your eating experience.

2. Slow down. Start out by trying to stretch your meals out to take at least 20 minutes. This can be especially challenging when we’re really or feel we have things to do, but eating slowing down can also help us chew our food better, experience our food more fully, and be in a more relaxed state for optimal digestion and absorption of nutrients. Slowing down also helps our brain get the signal that our stomach is full, so that we are less likely to overeat.

3. Put your fork down and pause at least once halfway through eating the food on your plate. This can be easier said than done, but this pause allows our food to settle, slows us down, and allows us to tune in to how our body is feeling and the hunger and fullness signals that are bodies are providing. We often get out of touch with these signals, instead using external cues like the amount of food on our plate, to tell us when to stop eating. It takes practice, but with time we can better tune into our hunger and satiety and start honoring those cues instead of simply finishing all the food on our plate.

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