If you, like me, have experimented with different types of meditation, you may have heard the term mindfulness to describe the act of breathing deeply and focusing on your thoughts, feelings, and sensations in the current moment. This form of meditation helps you reprioritize your anxious thoughts about the past and future to the present and allows you to acknowledge your feelings without judgment. Mindfulness, however, though often used to describe a calming strategy, can and should be woven throughout your daily wellness routine.
One way to expand your mindfulness practice beyond your morning (and evening) meditation is through mindful eating: being mindful or attentive to the food you eat from the time it enters your shopping cart all the way to your belly and from beginning to end of the digestion process. As you read through our everyday tips for mindful eating, you may notice some familiar strategies we’ve shared in previous blogs like seasonal eating, portion control, and alternative cooking methods. You may realize that you already have some experience with mindful eating. If so, congratulations! If not, what a great time to begin!
Tip #1 Shop Smart
Making a grocery list, checking it twice for cost-effectiveness and diversity of nutritious foods, and sticking to it is the first step to mindful eating. Try alternative brands and ingredients to save money on your grocery bill and to reduce your household’s fat and sugar consumption. Opt for fresh produce when possible and search the web for homemade alternatives of your fast food favorites.
Tip #2 Eat only when hungry
An important part of mindful eating is being able to differentiate between hunger and boredom or the desire to stress-eat. To curb your hunger in between meals, eat a light healthy snack like fresh or dried fruit, a smoothie, or fresh vegetables like carrots and celery. Pro Tip: Dark chocolate and almonds are a great treat to curb cravings.
Tip #3 Start Small
When the food is delicious, it can be tempting to overindulge. Push past the temptation by starting with small portions. Doing so allows you to eat a little of everything you’ve prepared before assessing whether you are still hungry and need another small helping. Soon you will know your body and how much food you need to satisfy your appetite.
Tip #4 Slow down
Mindfulness is all about slowing down and enjoying the present moment. You can practice mindful eating simply by taking smaller bites, chewing each bite at least 32 times, and taking a moment in between bites to take a sip of your drink. Digestion begins when you take a bite. From there, your eyes, nose, and mouth send signals to one another to proceed with the next step of digestion. Eating slowly allows your body’s senses to do their jobs, reduces calorie intake, helps release more nutrients and energy into your body, and breaks down your food sufficiently for digestion.
Tip #5 Keep a detailed record
Though mindfulness focuses on the present, it can be used as a tool to learn what your mind and body need to function at their maximum potential in the future. Start a food journal of your meals and snacks, taking note of the time of day you ate, the amount, and key ingredients and nutrients. Each day, reflect on how you felt physically and mentally after eating and throughout the day. Some important things to note include your energy level, mood, and mobility. Keep record by hand, in your phone’s notes app, or an online food journal app like Bitesnap, Cara, MyNetDiary, or Noom Coach. Remember, the purpose of your food journal is to be mindful of what you eat and its effect on your body, not to judge yourself.
I hope you find these tips, both old and new, to be useful and that you are inspired to discover more creative ways to practice mindfulness in your everyday life.