From improving sleep to managing stress, mindfulness has been used in a number of areas to help people improve their health and sense of well-being. Mindfulness has also been widely used in the context of eating, a concept known as “mindful eating,” to help people lose weight, maintain a healthy weight, and develop healthier eating habits.
We’ve put together 10 steps to help you master the art of mindful eating.
1. Make it an event
All too often we grab a meal on the fly and scarf it down while running from one errand to another, or one meeting to the next. Make it a point to make each meal an event — a breakfast, a lunch, or a dinner, or a snack — with a start and an end. This can help you be more mindful of what you eat and when, and avoid grazing all day long. Simply setting an eating schedule, for example — breakfast at 7:30am, lunch at 12:00pm, snack at 3:30pm, and dinner at 6:30pm — can help you make an event of it.
2. Cook your meal
Whenever possible, make it a point to cook your meal (or choose food you’ve prepared in advance). Cooking a meal is a great way for you to connect with the ingredients you are using and appreciate the time, energy and effort that went into putting a dish together.
3. Remove distractions
Having the TV on in the background, scrolling through your phone, or reading the newspaper while eating takes your attention away from your meal. Before you sit down, put away all distractions so that you can focus on the meal at hand.
4. Sit down
Once you’ve made your meal, put your food on a plate, grab a hold of cutlery, and sit down at a table for the meal. To really make an event of it, set out a nice placemat, light a candle, or do anything else that can help you transition from life’s hustle and bustle to enjoying a nourishing meal.
5. Take a deep breath
Once you sit down, take a deep breath. Taking a deep breathe is a simple yet effective way to bring yourself into the present moment — the definition of mindfulness.
6. Engage your senses
Before taking your first bite, pay attention to the following: How does your meal look? What types of aromas do you smell? When you put your fork in your food, how does it feel? Is it soft? Take a moment to engage all of your senses.
7. Chew your food
Chewing your food can be a great way to slow down and really savor the food you are eating. By chewing your food well you can focus on the present moment — the meal.
8. Swallow and reflect
After you swallow each bite observe how you are feeling. How did the food feel in your mouth? What flavors stood out? Did this bite taste just like your previous bite? Did you enjoy this mouthful as much as the last? How are you feeling? Are you hungry? Full? Satisfied?
9. Put your fork down
Between each bite, put your fork down. This is an important step in helping you slow down. Since it can take up to 20 minutes for your brain to register your fullness, slowing down is an important step in being able to tap into your hunger and fullness cues.
10. Practice, practice, practice!
Like with anything, mastery takes practice. The more often you practice eating mindfully, the better you’ll get!