Learning to Appreciate Your Dining Experience for Better Health
By Contributing Author, Kate Harveston
Do you eat your lunch at your desk while you work? Do you have dinner in front of the television? If so, chances are you don’t taste your food much.
Mindful eating focuses on slowing down and savoring foods that nourish your body. Unlike diets, which force you to eliminate or reduce foods, this practice doesn’t concern itself with judgment. It encourages you to appreciate the dining experience and express gratitude.
Why Practice Mindful Eating?
Mindful eating could help you combat obesity and the related adverse health effects. In fact, the practice may prove more effective than dieting when it comes to weight management. Why? Because when you restrict your intake of specific foods or count calories, your body reacts by going into famine-mode. You start behaving in small ways to conserve calories and seek out food.
This behavior served human ancestors well — it kept them from starving when food was scarce. Today, when high-calorie foods are limitless, this impulse packs on unwanted pounds. You might not notice you move less. You will, however, see the number on the scale creeping forward.
Mindful eating asks you to express gratitude for nourishing your body. Rather than condemning particular foods as bad, you decide how each bite makes you feel. Instead of depriving yourself, shift to a mindset of thankfulness.
Gratitude benefits mental wellness by helping us feel connected to the world and its power. The power food has to make us feel good is often joked about when we’re resenting ourselves for overeating, but nourishment really means so much more than that. On a primal level, it makes us feel well-fed and safe — something many take for granted in the modern world. It’s no wonder that researchers have found connections between healthy eating patterns and sound mental health.
Mindful eating is also quickly becoming a preferred method in helping individuals with diabetes change their behaviors. Instead of munching away on chips or cookies, this practice tells them to savor every bite. When you slow down, you become aware of how much you’re consuming. You feel the saltiness coat your tongue or the sugar melt away.
Techniques for Practicing Mindful Eating
Perhaps you’ve decided to give mindful eating a try. Good for you! To get started, follow the five tips below.
1. Focus on the Nutrients
When you make your grocery list, focus on the nutrient value of every item. At the store, stick to your list and avoid impulse purchases. If you must indulge, limit yourself to one spontaneous buy.
2. Take Smaller Portions
Mindful eating isn’t about judging foods as good or bad. It’s about developing a keen sense of awareness. When you serve yourself a meal, start with small portions. Remind yourself you can go back for seconds if you’re still hungry when you’re done.
3. Pause Between Bites
While you’re eating, put your fork down between bites and take a deep breath. This practice forces you to savor your meal.
4. Focus on the Five Senses
Eating is more than adding calories to your body. Think about when you go out. Restaurants do all they can to engage your senses and provide a complete experience. Do the same for every meal.
What do you see when you eat? Perhaps the smiling faces of family members across the table. Maybe elegant candles set the mood. How does the aroma of your food whet your taste buds?
5. Chew and Eat Slowly
Slow down when you eat and chew your food thoroughly. Saliva breaks down food particles, helping you digest your food. When you eat quickly, you don’t give your body enough time to understand that it’s full.
In one study of nearly 1,000 men and women, researchers classified participants as slow, normal or fast eaters. Those in the fast group were 11.6% more likely to develop metabolic syndrome. They’re also prone to obesity, weight gain and high blood glucose levels.
Mindful Eating Makes Mealtime More Meaningful
Mindful eating isn’t a diet. It’s a way of appreciating the nourishment your body derives from meals. Plus, engaging in this practice might help you lose weight and improve your health. Why not give it a try?