Simple Strategies to Eat More Mindfully and Change Your Relationship with Food
Are you tired of struggling with food? Do you find yourself thinking about what you will eat later in the day or wondering where your food just went? Do you eat quickly or while engaging in other activities such as watching TV, or working on the computer? Have you tried to change your eating, with little success?
Many struggles with overeating, weight gain, and powerlessness around food can be tied to mindless eating. That is, eating while distracted or in reaction vs. response to triggers. Mindful eating is eating with the intention of nurturing yourself and being aware of the process of eating, your enjoyment of your food and its effects on your body. The more present you are with eating, the more you may be satisfied with less.
While it sounds deceptively simple, mindful eating can be difficult for a number of reasons. Some people find that mindfully paying attention to food isn’t as enjoyable when food is used to numb, distract, or soothe. Some find the habit of slowing down enough to pay attention challenging. Our minds are busy and we’re used to going, going, going. The simplest way to think about mindful eating is PAUSE and notice. Even if just for a moment, adding in the pause can make a huge difference in the long-term.
Strategies to help you slow down and practice mindful eating:
- Eat Your Favorite Food Last. The last bite of food you eat lingers longer in your memory as well as on your palate. Strategically saving the best bite for last can help you to feel satisfied longer.
- Don’t Try and FIGHT Your Thoughts About Food. Telling yourself not to think about it results in obsessing about it and ultimately eating more than if you approached your craving mindfully. Research shows that those who tried not to think about eating chocolate ate more than those who intentionally thought about chocolate. Next time you have a craving, stop and check in with your internal state. Are you hungry, tired, bored? What do you need? Allow yourself to think about what about you want and decide what and how much you want to eat. The key here is to pause so you can respond vs. react.
- Make Your First Bite a Mindful Bite. Rather than trying to eat an entire meal or snack mindfully, focus on your first bite. Small steps ultimately lead to large change. When you sit down to eat, stop and notice your food. Check in with your body and notice your body’s response to the anticipation of your first bite. With your first bite, notice how it tastes in your mouth giving yourself time to chew before swallowing. Pay special attention to the pleasure and satisfaction you received from that first bite of food. Notice how your body feels after that first bite.
- Set Your Intention Through Gratitude. Saying a word of gratitude prior to eating can help you shift your mood to relaxed and your intention to the nourishment of the meal you are eating. Eating in a relaxed way helps your body to digest properly and increases your ability to eat mindfully.
- Take 3-5 Deep Breaths Before You Eat. Slowing down and relaxing your body can help you be in the present moment while you eat. This can also be helpful for responding vs. reacting to cravings and digesting your food more effectively. Advanced tip: add deep breaths while you are eating to stay connected to the present.
- Sit Down When You Eat. Do you commonly eat on the go, in front of the refrigerator, or in the car? Creating a pleasing environment for eating can help you shift your attention back onto your experience of eating. Sitting down can help you s..l..o..w down, which can help you feel both relaxed and satisfied longer.
- If It’s Difficult to Eat with No Distractions, Put Your Fork Down and Alternate Eating with Distraction. Some people find it hard to simply focus on their food without distractions. If you prefer to read, talk, or (must) wrangle children while eating, put your fork down while you are engaging in that activity. Then focus on eating when you are eating. Shift back and forth, don’t try and do both at the same time.
- Eat with Compassion. We don’t practice mindfulness perfectly, nor do we eat perfectly. Give yourself permission to be imperfect. Sometimes you need to soothe, sometimes you need comfort and sometimes you need a break. Being mindful is about noticing that you need to soothe, comfort, or distract and it’s ok, you can give yourself some kindness for being human.
- Practice Using a Mindful Delay. If you feel stressed and cravings are strong, slow down and take a deep breath and check in with your body. What do you need? If that feels challenging, try chewing a piece of peppermint gum until you can slow down enough to decide what you need.
- Cope Effectively with Your Emotions. Stress, overwhelm, anger, sadness can all trigger food cravings and lead to mindless eating. Rather than trying to change what you eat, focus on your feelings. Identify what you need and what helps you cope: connecting with others, calming your senses, releasing through creativity, shifting your attention to an absorbing story, physically moving to relieve tension, shifting your mindset.
- Eat Pleasurable Foods Mindfully. Rather than limiting pleasurable food, make a “date” with them. Choose to eat them when you feel relaxed vs. using them TO relax. Savor each bite and enjoy the satisfaction and pleasure they provide.
- Look for the Exceptions. Rather than saying, “I can’t have just one,” or “I don’t know how to stop,” notice when you can. Pay attention to your environment, senses, mood, internal body cues. Notice what is different about the exceptions. This can help you identify when you are more likely to engage in mindful eating practices.
Make Peace with Food Program
If you’re ready to learn new strategies to have a healthier relationship with food, join our Make Peace with Food Program. The program starts April 2016. This is a 12-week program to help you:
- Practice intuitive and mindful eating
- Learn how to cope with emotion driven eating and cravings
- Build self-connection and self-compassion skills to cope with the inner critic and black and white thinking
- Cope effectively with stress and challenges that increase overeating
To get started give us a call to schedule an appointment at 832-559-2622 or schedule an appointment online.
Sign up to be notified of group and workshop dates.