Have you found yourself snacking while preparing a meal and then when you sit down to eat you are no longer hungry? Have you finished all of the food on your plate in under 10 minutes and felt awful for the next 2 hours? Do you find it difficult to accurately recall what you ate over the last 24 hours? Snacking when you are not even hungry? If you have answered yes to any of these, you are in good company. Many people eat mindlessly throughout the day. The privilege of sitting for 3 meals or even planning for meals is not always conducive to our day-to-day lives. With that said, mindless eating might also be a major factor in why many of us struggle with weight management.
Conversely, mindful eating or eating in the present moment might be the key to achieving a healthy body weight. Many trendy diets do not incorporate mindful eating and therefore are not successful in the long term. The best part about mindful eating is that special foods are not required, there is no need to follow a diet plan, or track your calories. Mindful eating simply requires a calm and present mind while eating. Mindful eating brings about self-awareness which leads to better foods choices, smaller portions and eating simply when hungry.
The steps below can help you become more mindful when it comes to food throughout your day.
- Listen to the hunger cues that your body sends. Eat when you physically feel hungry and stop as you start to become more satisfied. Keep in mind that physical feelings of hunger include a churning or growling stomach. It seems elementary, however, feelings of thirst, stress or anxiety can mimic hunger and therefore can be mistaken for physical hunger.
- Take your time to finish a meal- remember your mind and your stomach communicate slower than your fork and mouth. It takes 20 minutes for our mind to tell our stomach that we are full. If you do not have 20 minutes to enjoy a meal, that is ok. When you have finished 1/2 of your meal take a moment to check-in and see if you feel like finishing your food or if you are satisfied.
- Taste and enjoy the food on your plate. The practice of mindful eating includes using senses to take in the smell, texture, and taste of the food we eat. Often we eat to fill time or satisfy boredom while food is meant to be savored.
- When possible, sit down for a meal and avoid other distractions such as work, phone, or television. This will help you to eat intentionally and pay attention to what nutrients you are putting into your body. You might find that paying attention to what you are consuming might also help you to make healthier food choices. For example, you might find that you feel better when you eat a vegetable-filled soup over a greasy meal.
- Try to let go of judgments related to food and your body. Throughout our lives, messages regarding the foods we eat often affect our body image. For example, after you eat a food that has been labeled “bad” you might also feel “bad” for making that choice. This creates a negative relationship with food that can be detrimental to our physical and mental health over time. Instead, if you choose to eat something less than healthy, give yourself grace and try to make better choices next time you eat.
Being more self-aware not only when we eat but in our daily lives with our family, work, physical fitness, and stress management can help all of us to live more intentionally. Although the goal of mindful eating isn’t necessarily going to help with weight loss, people who choose this way of life tend to lose excess weight and sustain their weight loss.
For more on this topic visit:
- AmIHungry.com. Mindful eating programs and training. http://www.amihungry.com. Accessed 3 Jan, 2022.
- Nelson, J. Mindful Eating: The Art of Presences While You Eat. Diabetes Spectr. 2017 Aug; 30 (3): 171-174.
If you are a patient and have questions about your diet, please ask your oncologist at your next appointment about receiving a complimentary nutritional session with Melanie Mitchell, Cancer Partners’ Registered Dietitian.