The Art of Eating Mindfully


As the holidays approach, our daylight hours shorten, and cool temperatures arrive, we find less opportunity to be outdoors and active, and more opportunity to be indoors, eating.  Here are some helpful tips to eat mindfully this holiday season --  to slow down, truly savor your food,  and enjoy some, but not too much, of the delicious fare that abounds in the coming months.

1. Are you really hungry?

There are many reasons why we grab a bite, often is it not hunger that is prompting us to eat.  For example, we use food to reward ourselves for a job well done, we snack to procrastinate or to delay doing something that we really do not want to do, we eat to relieve stress, we eat to cheer ourselves up when we are having a bad day, and we eat when we feel sleepy and want to re-energize ourselves.  It is important to take a moment before you reach for that cookie, and be aware of what you are actually feeling.  Ask yourself, "Am I really hungry?"   You may need a brisk walk outside, a short nap, a hot cup of tea or a good talk with a friend, instead of a bite to eat.  Often food is not the answer to your craving, and although it may cause a temporary pleasure boost, if it isn’t hunger you are really feeling, food will not satisfy your needs.

2. Slow down

Who has time to eat a leisurely meal these days?  Eating quickly, however, can lead to overeating.  It takes the brain twenty minutes to register that the stomach is full.  If we eat quickly, we don’t give our brain time to register that we have filled our stomachs and we continue to eat while this neurotransmission is happening.  As a result,  we fill our stomachs way past full.  There are several ways to help you slow down.  One way is to use a fork and knife to eat, and put the fork down in between bites.  If you are eating a finger food, simply put the food down and take a pause in between bites.   Chew your food slowly and thoroughly, giving yourself the opportunity to savor the experience by being aware of the texture and taste in your mouth with each bite.

3. Pay attention

In today’s world, we pride ourselves in our ability to multitask.   Doing many things all at the same time, however, means that we are not doing any of those things with our full attention.  When we are eating while reading the paper, watching the news, catching up on our e-mails, or talking on the phone, we are not giving our food or our body's signals our full attention. By paying attention to our food and the sensation of eating, we can gain a much greater appreciation of the taste, smell and texture of our food, as well as its appearance.  Taking the time to notice these things will make the experience that much more enjoyable and will become a much more satisfying experience.   As we improve the quality of our eating experience by paying attention, we lower our need to eat more because we feel satisfied with less.

4. Have a seat

We must give ourselves the opportunity to truly enjoy our food.  We can do this by sitting down to eat.  This will minimize that mindless snacking that often leads to overeating.  We should get in the habit of only eating when we are sitting down at the table.  This also allows us to give our food our full attention.  While sitting down, remember to chew your food slowly and savor each mouthful.  There is much greater satisfaction derived from our first few bites than from our last few bites, so make sure to sit and enjoy them.

5. Eat food that satisfies both your body and your mind

Everywhere we turn we find new information on what we should or should not be eating.  As a result, we may even chose to eat things that we don’t enjoy.  Satisfaction comes not just from being full, but also from enjoying the taste of what we are eating.  Without feeling satisfied, we tend to eat more.  So, enjoy a taste of what you love.  Just remember to indulge in moderation, and enjoy it guilt-free. Eating should be a joyous, pleasurable experience - so sit down, relax, take tour time and appreciate that delicious food you have in front of you.