Tell me if you’ve ever done this:
Ate your entire dinner while standing at the kitchen sink…
Ate in front of the TV, in your car, at your desk, while holding your phone in one hand…
Looked down at the empty bowl in your lap and wonder who ate all of your popcorn/chips/pretzels…
Didn’t dirty a single dish for dinner because you ate your meal from a container…
You get the picture, right?
Most of us would benefit from a practice that I call “eating awareness”. I am not asking you to meditate while eating or roll a raisin in your mouth for 5 minutes (although that is a mindfulness exercise that is really beneficial). I would just like to get us all to slow down and be aware of what we are stuffing in our mouths.
Here are some of the tips you can use to become more aware of what you are eating. This will let you enjoy your food more and probably lead you to consuming less. Yes, this could even lead to a little weight loss if that’s what you are looking for.
- Sit at a table. This may be the most important thing you can do. Put your food on a plate, set your napkin and silverware in place, and grab a glass of your favorite mealtime beverage. Then sit. This one habit means no more running through the kitchen and grabbing a handful of something, snacking in front of the TV, or desk dining.
- Have others in your household join you, and have a conversation over dinner. This of course means banning phones, pads, and watches that text you at the table. Yes, you will meet with resistance, but “it” (whatever your family deems is critical in their digital world) can wait until after dinner.
- No distractions. This is a novel concept for some of you, especially if you are accustomed to eating by yourself. While sitting in front of the TV, scrolling though the Facebook feed on your phone, or seeing what’s trending on Twitter may seem like good company when you are eating alone, you will likely be completely unaware of what you have just eaten and consequently enjoy it less.
- Put your fork down between every bite and don’t load it with food again until you have swallowed what’s in your mouth. This is an easy one that will make such a difference right away. When I started this practice, I bet my eating pace slowed by a third. Eating slower means that you eat less. You have to give your brain some time to catch up with what you have eaten so that it can send out the hormones that signal your fullness. (Yes, hormones do that.)
- Time your meal. Take at least 20 minutes to eat. That is about the time that it takes for your brain to catch up to what you have eaten. If you hit the 10 minute mark and you are more than halfway through, just put your fork down for a bit and join the conversation at the table.
- Have a sip of your beverage every two to three bites. This will slow you down, make you feel fuller, and boost your hydration (provided it’s a non-alcoholic beverage). If you are drinking alcohol with your meal, make sure you are alternating with sips of water.
- Snack sensibly. It would be great if you could sit at the table with your snacks and avoid distractions as noted above, but that may be unrealistic. At least do the following: don’t eat your snack straight out of the bag or container, dole out one portion and stick to that, and keep healthy snacks readily available. Before you decide on a snack, check in with your body to make sure you are really hungry. Thirst can masquerade as hunger so try drinking some water before you decide on a snack.
- Finally, eat your meals with the manners that you would use if you were dining with the Queen of England. While that may be humorous, it will make you pay attention to how and what you are eating.
If you can improve your eating awareness, you will enjoy your food more, probably eat less, and maybe even discover more about what is going on in the lives of the people around you. Try at least a few of these tips, and you might be surprised at how much your eating habits change.