When it comes to making goals about your health and wellness, it’s tempting to take a look at all the fads that are being advertised on social media. There are so many diets – keto, Whole 30, Mediterranean, the “fruit flush” – I just can’t keep up. The latest trend I’ve seen around that’s actually interested me is the concept of “mindful eating”.
Mindful eating is less of a diet and more of an approach to food. It kind of confused me when I first heard of it! No restrictions on what you eat? No hard and fast rules about what and how much to eat? How does this even work?
Now that I’ve actually looked into it, it makes a lot more sense. Let me break it down for you.
What is Mindful Eating?
The whole idea behind mindful eating is that you’re present and focused whenever you eat. During your meals, you’re supposed to have no distractions – no phone, no TV, no nothing. Instead of watching something or scrolling down your newsfeed, you’re encouraged to focus on each bite of food. How does it taste? How does it feel after you’ve eaten it? Do you like it? Are you full yet?
People who swear by this process claim that mindful eating helps them eat proper portion sizes instead of eating way too much, and helps them digest and process their food. And that all makes a lot of sense! By being focused on what you’re eating, you’re more easily able to tell when you’re full. I know I’ve stuffed myself way too many times sitting on the couch watching Netflix – if I’d been a little more focused, maybe that wouldn’t have happened.
The Problem with Mindful Eating
But who has the time and focus for this?? That’s my big question. I’ve tried to eat mindfully before, and I’ve lasted one meal. Maybe one and a half meals. But it takes a long time to eat lunch when you’re eating each bite super slowly! And when I’m home from work, I want to destress with some entertainment. The last thing I want to do is sit in silence and eat one bite at a time.
Mindful eating might be really effective, but let’s be real. For all the fast-paced multitaskers out there like me, diving headfirst into mindful eating is NEVER going to work. It’s way too much of a time commitment, and it’s boring! Maybe my attitude will change in the future, but right now, I know I’d be happier watching Great British Bake Off with my dinner than I would be practicing mindful eating.
The Solution for Multitaskers
But does that mean mindful eating is completely off the table? No way! Even if you feel like you could never commit to the whole process, that doesn’t mean you can’t use some elements of the concept in your day-to-day life. Remember what I always say – it’s so much easier and more sustainable to start small when it comes to big life changes!
In the case of mindful eating, it’s all about doing a little bit of work before and after your meals. I’ve compiled FIVE easy ways to incorporate some mindful eating habits into your life without going the whole nine yards. That way, you can do whatever you want during your meal and reap the benefits of mindful eating anyway! It’s a total win-win situation. Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, here I come.
1. Use smaller plates.
This might seem weird, but I swear it works. A bunch of studies have shown that when people have larger plates, they tend to eat a significant amount more than people who use smaller plates.
Wild, right? Our brains are wired from a young age to fill our plates, and then finish everything on the plate, whether or not we’re actually hungry. When we use smaller plates, we naturally eat less food, and we’re able to judge better whether we want second helpings or we’re done. Plus, I’m super lazy. If I know I have to get up and go alllllll the way to the kitchen for another helping of food, I’m more likely to just stop eating when I’m full instead of going back for one more bite!
Use smaller plates. It seems silly, but it can totally change the way you eat
2. Keep portions in mind from the beginning.
When you’re cooking or ordering food, keep portions in mind when you start preparing for the meal, not when you’re ready to eat. I know when I mindlessly start making food, I often end up making way more than I need to eat! When I keep portions in mind, though, I make exactly the right amount. The same applies to ordering out – even if 3 things on the menu sound super delicious, try just getting two. You might find you’re totally full already and you didn’t need the third after all!
If you accidentally end up with too much food, don’t worry! Another way you can keep portions in mind is to box your leftovers first, instead of after you’re done. When food is out, it’s inherently way more tempting for us to eat. If you pack away your leftovers into Tupperware in the fridge, you’re a lot less likely to overeat even if you made a ton of food.
3. Give yourself a fixed time to eat.
This one is important. When we multitask while we eat, we tend to not notice the time going by. If you sit down to watch a movie while you eat dinner, the meal could easily stretch on for an hour or two! And all throughout that time, you might find yourself getting up for second, third, or fourth helpings – even if you’re already full after the first thirty minutes.
When you give yourself a fixed time to eat, this gives you a time to finish eating and properly evaluate whether you want more food or not. Try choosing one 30-minute episode of TV, or two 15-minute YouTube videos. As soon as you’re done watching, you can think about how you feel and whether you actually want need food. The answer might surprise you
4. Strategically store your food.
This is less related to specific meals and more general. The way we store food has a huge effect on our mindfulness during eating – or lack thereof.
When we get hungry, we’re most likely to eat things that are easily accessible to us, and less likely to search for food that’s more out of reach. This means that everything out on our counters is a lot more likely to get eaten than the stuff that we put away in our cabinets.
You can use this to your advantage! If you keep a bowl of fruits or nuts out within reach, you’re more likely to eat these healthy snacks when you need something to munch on, and less likely to go for the chips that are all the way over in the pantry. It’s kind of like you’re playing a trick on yourself – but hey, it works.
5. Reflect after your meals.
Finally, if you can, take a couple minutes after each meal and reflect. This can make up for all the time you spent not being mindful during your meal. Try to determine how you feel, and answer some questions for yourself. Did you like that meal? Are you satisfied? Are you still hungry? Do you feel healthy?
If you’re ready to take an extra step, you can even track your answers to these questions, using a journal or the Notes app on your phone. By seeing how you feel about your meals over a longer period of time (at least a week), you can find out more effective ways to prepare for your meals in the future.
Mindful Eating: Hacked
There you have it! With those five tips, even the most chronic multitaskers can incorporate mindful eating habits into their lives, and reap the benefits of this new trend.
Do you think you’ll incorporate mindful eating into your life? Do you think this is genuinely helpful, or just a trend? Let me know in the comments below!