Mindful eating. I’m sure you’ve heard of this concept before.
If not, mindful eating is basically a conscious and intentional approach to eating in which you pay full attention to the whole experience of eating: including sensations – aromas, textures and flavors – thoughts, and emotions.
It’s not just about transferring the food from your plate to your mouth and the physical aspect of eating and nutrition. It’s also about tuning into the psychological aspects of eating – like identifying emotional triggers and motivations behind certain food choices.
Maybe up until now it’s sounded intriguing and promising, but quite honestly a little “woo woo”. Like how does one just “mindfully eat”? Do I just…stare at the food? Think about what I’m eating? Say a prayer of gratitude?
If it feels nebulous to you, that’s about to change today my friend, because in this blog post, we’re delving into 3 tips for more mindful eating that actually work and can be incorporated into your daily life: the art of chewing, “wine tasting” your food, and using the HALT acronym to understand your motivations.
By embracing these techniques (with grace and patience!), you not only enhance your overall well-being, but also lay the foundation for a healthier relationship with food, better self talk, and a more enjoyable journey towards your health goals.
Ready to ride? Let’s go!
3 Tips For Mindful Eating That Actually Work
1. Chew 20 Times Per Bite
If there was one change that you could make that would allow you to be more mindful with your eating, decrease bloat, and INCREASE your satisfaction from the meal in front of you, would you want to know more? If so, making sure that you’re chewing each bite of food 20 times ought to be at the top of your priority list!
When we chew our food more, it of course slows us down physically – it takes more time to chew 20 times than it does to chew 2 bites, right?
When we physically slow down the eating process, it makes it easier to regulate food intake naturally, WITHOUT focusing on restriction or deprivation. Chewing your food for a longer amount of time gives your stomach time to catch up, so that it can signal to your brain “hey there big guy, I’m reachin’ capacity – let’s slow it down and put the fork down for now, capeesh?”.
- Lower energy intake
- Lower postprandial ghrelin concentration
- Higher postprandial glucagon-like peptide 1 and cholecystokinin concentrations
What does this mean? Chewing more leads to consuming less calories overall, while having a favorable impact on hunger hormones – increasing the hormone that shuts off hunger, and decreasing the hormone that stimulates hunger.
Something else that’s cool? When you chew your food better, your body slows down, you are less stressed, and you digest your food better – this leads to less bloating. Yeah, not being bloated is nice in and of itself of course, but how do you LIVE when you’re not bloated vs. when you are?? My guess is that being less bloated helps you feel more energized, more outgoing, and more comfortable to wear the outfit you really want to wear! Your mind is at peace, fully attentive to conversation at hand, because you aren’t hyper-focused on feeling uncomfortably bloated.
How To Implement:
It’s pretty simple – with each bite of food you take, focus on trying to chew it about 20 times. What foods take more or less time to chew? Do you notice any trends in which foods take less chewing and your intake of those foods? Even if you don’t hit 20 chews exactly, chewing your food even a few more times than you currently are is super helpful!
2. “Wine Taste” Your Food
Tell me: how many times have you torn through a basket of tortilla chips at your local Mexican joint, or reached the bottom of the pint of ice cream only to realize you don’t even recall what it *really* tasted like?
And hey, that’s okay!! It happens to ALL of us at some point or another, and chances are, it’ll happen again. We just don’t want it happening EVERY time we sit down to eat, right?
Want to know one of my absolute favorite strategies for mindful eating?
Wine tasting your food. Let me set the scene:
Picture this: you’re sitting on a patio of a small sandwich shop, tucked on a cobblestone side street of Tuscany, Italy. The waiter just brought out your hot, fresh-pressed panini that you can smell immediately. As you sink your teeth into that sandwich, you savor every ounce of flavor: the melty parmesan cheese, the flavorful bright green basil, the salty salami. With the sun beating down on your shoulders and a light breeze in your air-dried hai, it’s all absolute bliss! You want to bottle this moment up forever, and savor every single bite of that panini like it’s your last.
THAT is a small glimpse at what wine tasting your food looks like.
As you can imagine, this small way of thinking and relating to food can transform your whole experience with a meal or snack for the better. Greater appreciation and satisfaction from one small switch.
And this is something you can do right at home, too! While your dining room table may not give off the ambiance of a cool summer afternoon in Tuscany (a girl can dream), there is a way you can still harness that same energy at meal times.
How To Implement:
So how do you “wine taste” your food? Think of it as if whatever food is in front of you is a fine wine and you’re a sommelier. You pay attention to the smells, the flavor, the consistency, the way the food feels in your mouth and as it travels down your esophagus – all of it. You soak in the moment. It can be helpful to record what you observe about your meals a few times when you do this. Do you notice any trends with certain foods, or certain situations when you’re eating? Are some foods easier to savor than others?
Take a minute to think on this: do you really know what emotions, thoughts, or sensations are triggering your eating? Are you aware of them in the moment?
If not, this third way of introducing mindful eating to your meals is a small mental shift that can have significant positive effects on your eating choices, stress levels, and relationship to food.
What is it?
No, I’m not telling you to stop reading. That’s the reframe!
In this case, HALT is an acronym…and well yeah, it also happens to be what I want to encourage you to do before you reach for the bag of chips, go back for seconds, or sneak back to the pantry for the 4th night in a row. Stop.
When you think of the times that you are mindlessly eating, what is going on around you? What foods are you reaching for and eating? What are you feeling and thinking?
If you’re not totally sure, or if you’re not totally tuned into it all the time, using HALT will help bring awareness to that. And yes as cheesy as the cliche is, awareness really is the first step to change.
HALT stands for:
How To Implement:
When you find yourself going to the pantry or reaching for food, you will say to yourself “HALT!!”. Then, take a few seconds to think through, are you actually physically hungry? Or are you feeling anxious about something? Lonely? Tired? Maybe it’s none of those – maybe it’s stressed out, or bored, or some other emotion or thought that you want to avoid.
If you aren’t physically hungry, I want you to think through what else you could do to engage those sensations or emotions you’re feeling. Could you go on a walk? Sit in silence and take a few deep breaths? Pray? Do a craft or chore around the house?
So often, our mindless eating episodes happen because we’re turning to food for something other than physical nourishment. Typically, this is just a habit we’ve picked up through the years. Thankfully, it’s a habit we can unlearn with time!
What if you are physically hungry? Eat!! And you can use the first two tips to make sure you do so mindfully 😉
Mindful Eating: Where To Go From Here
I can’t cover every aspect of mindful eating in a blog post, but hopefully these 3 tips are a great starting point for you! While they may seem small, insignificant, or like they don’t carry a ton of power, I encourage you to give them a solid effort for a few weeks. It may feel clunky, and you may feel like you mess up more than you succeed – but I encourage you to keep at it! You are simply building in new habits and mastering a new skill, and like learning how to ride a bike…it takes time and practice!
Want more coaching on how to navigate the intricacies of mindful eating in the context of your messy life and goals? Reach out for 1:1 coaching! We’ll unravel your current habits, patterns, and ways of thinking to come up with new habits, patterns and ways of thinking that make it easier (and more enjoyable) for you to make healthier choices with ease so you can enjoy your food and move closer to your goals at the same time.