For the most part, I’d like to think I’m a pretty healthy person. I make sure to meditate every day, I exercise as regularly as possible, I try to get enough sleep and I eat healthfully as often as I can. But thanks to my job, I travel (a lot). And as anyone who’s often on the road knows, it can be challenging to stick to a clean eating plan—especially if you’re as passionate about food + drink as I am, and think that enjoying delicious cuisine is one of the best ways to experience a new place. That’s why, even if I can’t eat as healthfully as I would like, I always try to eat in a more mindful way both at home and on the road.
Contrary to what you might think, mindful eating isn’t about losing weight or sticking to a diet. And to me, it also isn’t just about eating the healthiest, most nutritious food possible (though that’s always a plus). Instead, it’s more about being mindful and present while you’re eating and drinking—enjoying every bite or sip you take, rather than eating in such a distracted way that you finish a meal without even realizing what you’ve eaten.
Mindful eating is also especially helpful for teaching your body + mind to recognize physical hunger, rather than just the emotional hunger that comes from being bored or stressed or even enjoying a fun happy hour with friends. So to help you stay more present while wining + dining, here are 5 of my favorite tricks for practicing mindful eating.
1. Slow down. Did you know it takes your brain about 20 minutes to realize that your body is full? That leaves a long time for you to keep eating even when your body isn’t hungry and doesn’t need more food. But eating at a slower pace actually helps your body catch up to your mind and lets you know when you’re full. To slow down, try chewing each bite more times than you typically would, or set your fork down between each bite. And when you’re eating a snack (think seaweed chips or popcorn), try eating one piece—rather than a handful—at a time.
2. Listen to your body. This kind of ties in with tip #1, but understanding your body and its signals is crucial to learning how to eat when you’re actually hungry and how to stop eating when you’re full. Figure out what your body’s hunger signals are. Is it a headache or low energy? Maybe a little irritability or lightheadedness? Or is it just the very-obvious tummy growl? Actively listen to and train your body + mind to eat only when triggered by these signals, rather than emotional or social cues.
3. Limit distractions. Multitasking may be an advantage at work or in other areas of your life, but it’s something to avoid when you’re sitting down to eat. Pay attention to what you’re consuming, rather than distracting yourself with a book or eating in the car on the go. That also means eating dinner at the table rather than in front of the TV, and having your lunch away from your desk (where you’re more likely to answer emails or scroll through your Facebook feed).
4. Engage your senses. My favorite part of mindful eating is making every snack, meal or cocktail a total sensory experience. As you're eating and drinking, actively pay attention to the smells, flavors, colors, textures + even the sounds of your food. Let it resonate with your mind + body, and savor every bite or sip for as long as you possibly can.
5. Know your food. While it’s definitely a bonus to actually know where your food comes from, it’s also important to take the time to think about who grew it, how it was grown, and how much work it took to get it from the farm or field to your table. Mindful eating is also about eating “real” (not processed) food as much as possible, and being aware of how everything you eat can affect your body in a positive or negative way. And when you are going to indulge, do it in a mindful way. After all, wouldn’t you rather enjoy made-from-scratch double chocolate brownies that use only organic ingredients and as many local products as possible?
What are your tricks for eating more mindfully? Share them in the comments section below, or send us a photo of your mindful eats + tips on Instagram @malaandmantra using #MMtakeover.
Happy (+ healthy) eating!