Love What You Eat: Mindful Eating
By Michelle May, M.D.
The following is an excerpt from Chapter 6 of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle.
Have you ever finished a candy bar and wished you had just one more bite? Are you surprised when your hand hits the bottom of the popcorn box? Do you ever feel lethargic or miserably stuffed after you eat?
These are all symptoms of unconscious eating. When you eat quickly or while distracted, you may feel stuffed but strangely unsatisfied.
Rather than eating on autopilot, eat mindfully, with intention and attention.
Eat with the intention of feeling better when you’re done than you did when you started. Eat with attention so you’ll eat less but enjoy it more.
- First, recognize whether you’re hungry before you start eating. Sometimes “I want a brownie” really means “I want a break.” When a craving doesn’t come from hunger, eating won’t satisfy it.
- Avoid distractions while you eat. Your brain can only focus on one activity at a time so if you eat while watching television, driving, working, or talking on the telephone, you can’t give the food or your body’s signals your full attention.
- Next, decide how you want to feel when you’re finished. When you eat with the intention of feeling better than when you started, you’re less likely to overeat.
- Choose food that nourishes your body and your mind. Our society is so obsessed with “eating right” we sometimes eat things we don’t even like. Besides, deprivation and guilt cause more overeating.
- Taking a few deep, calming breaths to center yourself.
- Use this moment to express gratitude and appreciation for your food.
- Notice the aromas, colors, and textures. Enjoy this feast for the eyes.
- Select the perfect bite—not necessarily the healthiest, but the one you really want to eat while your taste buds are their most sensitive. If you save the best for last, you may want to eat it even if you’re full.
- Place a small amount in your mouth. Flavors come from the taste buds on your tongue and aromas that reach your nose. If your bite is too large, much of the food will be on your teeth, cheeks, and roof of your mouth where there’s no taste.
- Savor the texture and flavors of the food on your tongue then slowly begin to chew. Breathe to allow the aromas to ascend to your nose.
- What does it taste like? What ingredients can you identify? Are the flavors interesting, exciting, pleasurable, or just so-so. (Imagine how much less food you’d eat if you didn’t bother to eat another bite of food you don’t love.)
- As you swallow, notice the food gently filling your stomach. Sit for a moment and let the flavors and experience linger.
- Set your fork down between bites. If you’re focused on loading your forkful you aren’t paying attention to the one in your mouth. You’ll always anticipate the next bite instead of the one you’re eating now—so you won’t be done until there are no bites left.
- Pause for two minutes in the middle of eating. Estimate how much more food it will take to fill you to comfortable satiety.
- Notice when you’re approaching your intended fullness. Becoming bored and distracted is a sure sign you’re done.
- How do you feel afterward? What went well? What will you do differently next time?
Once you’ve experienced the pleasure of eating mindfully, you may decide to become more mindful during your other activities too. Becoming more aware, present, and centered will help you discover joy in everything you do.
What so you do to increase your enjoyment of food?
Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yoyo dieter and the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: How to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle. Download a Guided Mindful Eating Experience here.
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