I've heard it said more than a few times that being mindful is simple, but it isn't easy—and I certainly won't argue with that! The same can be said for mindful eating—the techniques are simple, but like lots of things, it takes practice.
There's one thing that most of us have become so used to doing that we don't even notice it, but if we stopped doing it we'd find it much easier to eat mindfully. I promise you that doing this can be your gateway to more mindful meals, which can lead to more satisfaction from your food, more enjoyment and fewer instances of eating too much or too little at mealtime.
So, what's the big strategy that can make or break our mindful meals?
Remove all distractions when you're going eat.
Yep, that's it. I know, it seems so easy. However, if you think about it, #distractions while eating are both pervasive and invasive. We do so many things in a distracted state these days that we may not even notice that we're distracting ourselves when eating. Yet, allowing distractions into our mealtimes (or snack times) practically guarantees that you'll be eating that food mindlessly. Consider these common scenarios:
You turn on the TV when you eat: I feel like a cranky Mom when I discuss this with mindful eating class participants (no eating in front of the TV!) but there is no question that paying attention to the television makes it much harder to pay attention to your body and your food. Have you ever noticed that whatever food you're eating while watching TV somehow "disappears." When you finally tear your eyes away from the screen and look down at your plate, somehow there are no nachos left on the plate! Yes, you did, in fact, eat that whole plate of nachos. Were they good? Did you enjoy them? Did your brain even register that you were eating them? While your body may actually feel full after you methodically but mindlessly ate those nachos, your satisfaction from those nachos is likely lacking. So you hoist yourself off the couch and head back to the kitchen in search of something else to help you feel more satisfied. Sound familiar?
You end up working through your meal: Maybe you don't eat in front of the TV, but instead you work at your desk. Obviously, this is a huge distraction. If you're actually working or reviewing work emails or memos, you're certainly not focusing on nourishing yourself and enjoying your food. What's more, these activities can easily turn stressful—we're talking about work here, right? And even if all you're really doing is checking social media or doing online shopping or browsing during your lunchtime, it's still going to be distracting (especially if it's a good sale!).
You read at mealtime: This one was a biggie for me when I was learning to eat mindfully. I could easily skip TV and not work through my lunch, but flipping through one of the many magazines I had in my "to read" pile seemed pleasant and a good use of my time. Looking at the day's mail while noshing was another distraction I had to ditch in order to be more mindful.
You check your phone while eating: Catching up with what others are doing via social media, listening to #podcast or scrolling through your feed—all of these activities take your mind off of your food (not to mention your company, if you're eating with someone else). Some of the images you come across may also be rather triggering in terms of eating or #bodyimage issues—not exactly what you want anytime, let alone while you're trying to eat. This may be one of the toughest behaviors to stop because our phones are pretty much just extensions of our bodies these days, but it can be done!
Distractions while you're eating are both pervasive and invasive. Why allow them in when you're trying to nourish yourself?
Set yourself up for a distraction-free meal
Distraction-free meals don't just happen on their own. We have to consciously set them up that way. Here are a few tips to help you do that:
Put your phone away in a different room during your meal or snack (and turn off the sound as well if you can)
Sit down at an actual table or counter where a television is not visible--avoid eating in your living room or on the couch
Clean all clutter away from your eating space—when you sit down there you want your brain to know "I'm eating now"
Set yourself up for the sole purpose of eating a meal or snack by eating from a plate or bowl instead of eating from a package/box/bag
Take a few moments before eating to bring your focus to the food in front of you—how does it look, how does it smell? Take a minute to #appreciate your food.