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The Surprising Benefits of Mindful Eating: A Beginner's Guide

Does your plate of food disappear way too quickly? Do you mindlessly devour your meals?

You’re not alone…

I find myself doing this all too often, which is why I am sharing this with you. I am not sure why I eat so fast, other than because my food tastes good. Maybe it was the fact that when I was a kid, I had to eat every last bite whether I liked it or not. Or is it some habit I picked up? All I know is that I don’t love how I feel when I eat quickly. Sometimes I look at my plate in disbelief that my food is already gone. That is when I go for seconds. Then the bloated, full feeling sets in. I make pretty healthy meals, but over-eating healthy meals can still contribute to feeling full and excess calorie consumption.

When I slow it down, I feel better physically and mentally.

What is mindful eating?

Mindful eating is a practice that helps you connect with your body, your food, and the sensations of eating. It’s a way of eating that helps you to be more aware of your food choices.

It involves being present and aware of what you are doing when eating — taking time to pay attention to each bite as it goes into your mouth; chewing slowly; breathing between bites; noticing how food tastes, smells, and feels in your mouth.

Did you know that hormones control your hunger cues? Hormones send a signal to your brain telling you if you are hungry or full. The thing is, it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to receive these messages. Eating more slowly can give your brain time to get the message that you are full, which can help nix overeating at meals.

Why should you care about mindful eating?

There are many reasons to care about mindful eating. The two most important ones are:

  • Mindful eating can help you make better choices. When you eat mindlessly, your brain is too focused on what’s happening around you and not enough on the food that’s in front of it. YEP, that’s me! This means your cravings get out of control, and before long you’re reaching for whatever treat is closest, without any regard for how much sugar or unhealthy fat it contains. By contrast, mindful eating makes sure that every bite counts by recognizing what hunger feels like and choosing foods that are healthy for both body and mind. Slowing down and being aware at mealtime is the key here.
  • Mindful eating can lead to weight loss (and keep it off). It’s hard to lose weight unless we’re paying attention! If we aren’t paying attention when we eat, there’s a good chance we’ll end up overeating without realizing it until later when our pants begin feeling uncomfortably tight around the waist. When we eat mindfully instead of mindlessly though — we feel satisfied with smaller portions so there’s no need for seconds later on down the road either. This has been my experience. No one loves the tight waistline feeling after eating!

woman holding a plate with a full mouth offering a bite to the reader.

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Tips to slow down and be mindful when you eat:

  • Start your meal with the intention of mindfully eating. Create an atmosphere around you that is appealing and calming. Add flowers or a candle to the table and put on some music you love.
  • Notice how everything looks on the plate — the color combinations, the shapes and textures of different foods. Are there any interesting shapes or colors? Does anything look unappealing or particularly appealing?
  • Take a bite of each food, one at a time to really experience its flavor. What does each ingredient taste like individually before combining them all together? How do they come together after mixing together? What do they remind you of?
  • After chewing each bite thoroughly (but not too long) swallow without taking another bite until tasting all the flavors. Then move on to the next item on your plate. A few more chews = the delicious taste lasts longer.
  • Silence the busy noise around you. Try to eat with the TV off and truly experience every bite of your meal.

Eating mindfully will help you make healthier choices for your diet and your body.

Eating mindfully is good for your body, mind, and soul.

It helps you make smarter food choices.

It helps you feel more satisfied.

Try this with one meal to start until you get the hang of it. The hope is that it becomes a habit over time. I have found that eating slower is easier for me after practicing mindful eating over and over. I still do catch myself eating too fast at times. I am very grateful for this awareness so I can slow it down and find my place of mindfulness while I eat.

This article was originally published on Wellness Lovely's Medium blog.