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Four Steps to Practice Mindful Eating

Eating breakfast on the way to work, a rushed Sad Desk Lunch, then picking up takeout to have in front of the TV. When we multitask during meals, however, we may find we overeat or break healthy eating commitments. Mindful eating means paying attention not just to what you eat, but how you feel before, during, and after meals—and that helps prevent falling into unhealthy habits. Here’s how to do it:

1. Set Aside Time for Meals

If you don’t put time in your schedule to sit down and eat, then you’re not making it a priority.  First things, first: if you’re hurrying through meals or hitting a drive-thru before heading off to your next commitment, cut it out! The first step to greater self-awareness it about taking the time to experience the food you eat and your state of being while you’re eating them. Adjust your lifestyle as necessary, creating margin in your life to slow down during meals.

2. Remove Distractions

Going through email, reading, or watching television during meals may seem like an efficient use of time, but it prevents you from paying attention to what you’re eating—and anyone you’re eating with. At home, put your cell phone in another room during meals; at a restaurant, everyone can put their phones face down in the middle of the table.

3. Take Note During Meals

Mindfulness is all about paying attention. As you sit down to eat, take note of your experience. If you need guidance, begin by answering three simple questions.

How was I feeling before I started eating?

Sometimes we eat when we’re hungry. Sometimes we eat because we’re bored, anxious, or sad. Understanding the emotions you were feeling before you started eating encourages greater self-awareness. You might notice that certain circumstances trigger your sweet tooth. You’ll start to recognize the difference between hunger—when you need to eat—and cravings—when you want to eat.

How do I feel as I eat?

Food tastes good! The first few bites are the most vibrant, since they’re a new sensation.  Take notice of the pleasure you experience from eating. How do the flavors work together? Do you have different sensations on your palate: salty, sweet, sour, bitter? Is the temperature of your food enjoyable? Put your fork down between bites, so you don’t eat too quickly.

How do I feel after eating?

Use mindfulness to notice the effect food has on your body and your mood. Are you comfortably full or did you eat until you were too full? Are you experiencing a crash after too many sweets? These are important things to understand about yourself and your eating habits.

4. Accept and Learn

Non-judgement is a foundational principle of any mindfulness practice. You’re not taking note of your eating experience so you can berate yourself for your choices! Accept the decisions you’ve made, good or bad. Forgive yourself and move on. But keep what you learned in mind for the next time you eat and make adjustments.

From a place of non-judgement, you can begin to learn and grow. Recognizing your triggers for overeating or reaching for sugary foods is a chance to make changes to your environment and routine. For example, if you have noticed your sweet tooth kicks in at the end of the long day, you can prepare for those cravings. Change up your routine. Stock up on healthy snacks in advance.