By Staci Amend and Ali Struhs
Are you always finished with your dinner before everyone else in your family, or do you find yourself eating on the go for nearly every meal? Do you rush through dinner while checking emails or watching television? Distracted and unconscious eating may actually be harming your weight loss goals. Studies show that distracted eating may lead to weight gain. Plus, are you really savoring that fresh salad with vegetables you gathered from your garden alongside your favorite Jenny Craig dish?
It’s time to slow down, turn off the distractions and practice some mindful eating behavior strategies.
What is mindful eating?
Mindful eating involves paying full attention to the experience of eating and drinking, both inside and outside the body. Just as if you were to stop and smell the roses, stop and notice the vibrant red of the tomatoes on your salad, or the aromatic summery smell of the char on your Jenny Craig Turkey Burger.
Mindful eating is especially important for those on a weight loss journey. It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to signal your brain that you are full. “Eating more slowly allows for the natural feedback systems within your body to let you know you’ve had enough — and it enables you to more fully experience the act of eating with all your senses,” says Lisa Talamini, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Jenny Craig.
“Using mindful eating awareness techniques that will naturally and enjoyably slow you down enables you to move from a distracted to more conscious eating style,” said Talamini.
Think about these tips for slow, distraction-free eating.
Craving or hunger?
First, make sure you understand the difference between real hunger and a craving. Hunger is physiological, such as your stomach growling, headache, tiredness, not food-specific). Cravings are more psychological, like the urge to eat something very specific like chocolate, and sometimes associated with negative energy or emotion. Ask yourself if you’re really hungry, or are you just bored, angry, lonely, or tired? If it’s more emotional than physical, consider riding out that urge with a tactic like drinking a glass of water, going for a walk around the block or engaging in some other short term activity. If you’re actually hungry, sit down and slowly, mindfully eat something.
Take a break from the screen
Distracted eating can lead to overeating, since you’re not paying attention to how much you’re eating and when you are beginning to feel satisfied. Put your phone down and turn off the TV and turn away from your desktop, laptop or tablet.
Plate your food
Just because you can microwave your dinner in the container doesn’t mean you should actually eat out of the plastic dish. Instead, try plating your food on a dinner plate as if you would a meal you prepared yourself. Consider using a placemat and a cloth napkin to make your meal even more mindful.
Check in with your emotions and body sensations
Before you take a bite, take a breath and then a sip of water to signal the start of your meal. Chew each bite carefully, and pause for a bit between bites. Notice…the tastes, textures, aromas. This will automatically slow your rate and help you know your “state.” Pay attention to how each bite brings you closer to satisfaction. Ask yourself, “Am I still hungry, am I feeling stuffed, or am I feeling just satisfied enough?”
Appreciate your food
Stop to think about the ingredients in each food. Consider everything that went into your meal—from the farmers who grew the vegetables to the cows that produced the milk. What did it take to grow and harvest the strawberries on your cereal? What did it take to get the strawberries to the market?