When it comes to maintaining a healthy weight, the word is out: Mindful eating is in. But, what exactly does that mean?
We all know its opposite – mindless eating. That’s what we’re doing when we gobble a turkey sandwich at our computers or munch an entire bag of chips in front of the TV. We’re putting food into our mouths without really thinking.
Mindful eating, on the other hand, is recognizing when we’re actually hungry – and giving each bite our full attention. Experts say when we do this, we tend to consume less food – maybe as much as one-third less. And, that’s good news for anyone who’s also trying to be mindful of an expanding waistline.
Asking the question: Am I hungry?
We eat for nourishment. But, many of us also reach for food when we’re bored, stressed, upset, lonely or sad – or just because it’s there. Sometimes, we may also confuse thirst with hunger.
Tracking what you eat for a few days may help you recognize patterns – and know when you’re truly hungry.
Being more mindful
When you are hungry, here are four strategies to help you slow down and fully appreciate your meals:
1. Put distractions on the back burner. What fights for your attention at mealtime? Maybe you need to turn off the TV or your cell phone. Or, set aside the newspaper, your laptop or that great book you’re reading.
2. Engage all your senses. Arrange a nice place setting, even if you’re dining alone. You might even light some candles. And, play some soft music. As you eat, relish the experience. Maybe you notice the distinct aroma of curry, the tang of lemon on seared tuna, or the deep red of a cherry tomato.
3. Enjoy every bite. Cut large items into smaller pieces. Chew thoroughly as you savor each morsel.
4. Tune in to your tummy. It takes 15 to 20 minutes for your brain to receive the message: “That’s enough.” So, eat at a leisurely pace. Set your fork down between bites. Sip some water. Stop eating before you feel full.
Use this hunger scale to help you prevent careless eating and practice portion control. Print it out and carry it with you.
Provided by Arleen Fitzgerald L.I.C.S.W. Arleen Fitzgerald has a master's degree and has been an independently licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist for the past 20 years in public and private practice settings. She works in the field of integrating medical and behavioral health care.