Is Mindful Eating a Healthy Habit?
Mindful eating might be the goal, but most of us are making mostly mindless food decisions. Did you know that the average person makes over 200 food-related decisions every day? Talk about a mind-boggling buffet of choices! 🤯 In fact, there is an entire industry designed to make all of these decisions even more complicated with attention-inducing packaging, promotions, advertising, and even the layout of grocery stores and websites. All of these unconscious choices add up to a lot of decisioning about food, but very little focus.
That's why so many people are talking these days about Mindful Eating. It's related to mindfulness, but while mindfulness is a broader practice of being present, mindful eating is the conscious act of nourishing your body and paying extra attention on the actual eating experience.
But First...a Disclaimer
And before we continue, I can already hear all the busy moms and dads saying "we don't have time to experience food…we just need to eat and move on to everything else". Mindful Eating doesn't require a complete re-imagining of eating, and it doesn't have to happen for every meal. Honestly, what I think you'll find is that it's a game-changer for stress reduction and cultivating a more positive relationship with food.
Let's dig into the some more of the details first.
What is Mindful Eating, Really?
Mindful eating is not just about what you eat, but how you eat it. It's about being fully present. Focus on the colors, textures, and flavors of your food. Turn off distractions, tune in, and lean in to each bite. Let me give you an example. Have you ever found yourself inhaling a bag of chips while binge-watching your favorite show? Me too (although my go-to is pretzels and humus). Now, imagine savoring each chip or pretzel, appreciating its crispiness, and truly enjoying the taste. That's mindful eating – turning a mindless snack into a mindful delight.
How Does it Work?
There are several different types of frameworks including the 3-4-4 Eating Method, and a variety of stepped processes. Harvard's School of Public Health outlined 7 steps but Dr. Susan Albers with USC's Arcadia Hospital synthesized it in just 4 easy steps. Try these at your next family meal:
- Sit Down: Give your meal the attention it deserves. The brain's responsibility is to tell you that it's hungry and seek out food. Instead of being critical with your food thoughts, thank your brain for trying to save you.
- Savor: Relish the flavors and textures.
- Sip Water: Stay hydrated; it enhances the mindful experience.
- Slow Down: Let the pace of your meal match the rhythm of your breath.
Final Thoughts, From Dr. Pam Wright
I will do an entire segment on mindful eating vs emotional eating in a future post. The takeaway here is that I truly believe being mindful, not just about HOW we eat, but WHAT we eat is important. There are a lot of tools and ways to listen to your body and determine your level of hunger-fullness. Mindless and often times emotional eating is super problematic since we are not aware of what we eat. Have you ever watched an interesting movie or show and realized you ate way more than you intended? Being mindful helps to control this phenomena. Be on the lookout for more mindfulness and body awareness tips coming soon!
#MindfulEating #NourishYourSoul #HealthyHabits 🌿💖
Dr. Pam Wright is a licensed psychologist and a mental health expert. She is the Founder and Director of The Life Change Group in Peachtree City, Ga. Her psychology practice is a team of therapists, counselors and psychologists offering a wide range of psychological testing and individual, couples and family counseling. Dr. Wright is also a co-host of the "Middle Age(ish)" podcast and has appeared on NBC in Atlanta.