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When it comes down to it, mindful eating is all about taking control of your food choices and not being controlled by your hunger hormones or cravings. You remain present in each moment of your day, recognizing your hunger cues before you’re ravenous so you’re able to consciously choose foods that are truly satisfying and enjoyable.
Mindful eating involves relying on your intuition, which many of us have neglected in current diet culture. Much like my Body Love principles, mindful eating is not about restriction or deprivation, but loving and respecting your body. Its focus is on analyzing what your body needs and finding a place of balance. Blood sugar instability is often at the root of mindless eating. That’s why I recommend incorporating foods that regulate blood sugar, preventing spikes and the resulting cravings.
Short-term, mindful eating cuts out the feelings of desperate hunger, crazy cravings, and confusion about what to eat when. You’re able to consciously choose meals based on what you need, rather than listening to or fighting your hunger hormones. Beyond these immediate benefits, mindful eating allows you to stay focused on your goals and make choices that will lead you closer to them one meal at a time. You get to take back control of your food choices and your health as a result.
So, where to begin? First of all, slow down and start early. Mindful eating is all about recognizing your hunger cues, and you’ll need to determine what those are before you’re feeling those familiar hunger pangs. Consider how you feel first thing in the morning—are you extremely hungry or maybe just thirsty? Here are some tips for beginners:
1. Begin with your shopping list. Consider the health value of every item you add to your list and stick to it to avoid impulse buying when you’re shopping. Fill most of your cart in the produce section and avoid the center aisles—which are heavy with processed foods — and the chips and candy at the check-out counter.
2. Come to the table with an appetite — but not when ravenously hungry. If you skip meals, you may be so eager to get anything in your stomach that your first priority is filling the void instead of enjoying your food.
3. Start with a small portion. It may be helpful to limit the size of your plate to nine inches or less.
4. Appreciate your food. Pause for a minute or two before you begin eating to contemplate everything and everyone it took to bring the meal to your table. Silently express your gratitude for the opportunity to enjoy delicious food and the companions you’re enjoying it with.
5. Bring all your senses to the meal. When you’re cooking, serving, and eating your food, be attentive to color, texture, aroma, and even the sounds different foods make as you prepare them. As you chew your food, try identifying all the ingredients, especially seasonings.
6. Take small bites. It’s easier to taste food completely when your mouth isn’t full. Put down your utensil between bites.
7. Chew thoroughly. Chew well until you can taste the essence of the food. (You may have to chew each mouthful 20 to 40 times, depending on the food.) You may be surprised at all the flavors that are released.
8. Eat slowly. If you follow the advice above, you won’t bolt your food down. Devote at least five minutes to mindful eating before you chat with your tablemates.
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