1) Eat slowly – This is the key to mindful eating for so many reasons. Eating slowly not only decreases the amount of food you are eating and enables you to feel full on less, but it also enables improved digestion because your body is in a more relaxed state. Eating quickly stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system enough to create a stress response in your body. Chewing slowly has the opposite effect. In fact, the more you chew, the more that food is broken down by your teeth and the digestive enzymes that are in your saliva.
Chewing slowly actually reduces gas, heartburn and bloating and stimulates faster digestion because your stomach is not left trying to break down food that should have been broken down in previous stages. Try counting your chews at first; you may be surprised by how little you are chewing at first.
2) Switch hands – Eating with your non-dominant hand can make a world of difference to help you bring your attention back to your eating habits. If you are right handed and have to eat with your left, you can’t help but slow down while you are eating.
3) Put your Fork Down – Another practice of the French is putting their spoon or fork down between bites. This will definitely slow you down and allow you to pause and breathe between bites. This will force you to become mindful of what you are eating and how much. If you normally scarf your food down, you might actually notice that you taste and savor your food—and on less calories!
4) Practicing Presence – Engaging the five senses when you are eating is probably the most important thing you can do above all else in order to become a mindful eater. At first it is not easy to eat an entire meal while remaining focused on the present. Like meditation, or anything, it takes practice. Think of the taste, texture, smell as well as what you see around you (which is why ambience is so important when you eat). Be in the NOW.
Become aware of how the food that you are eating is nourishing every cell in your body. Nourishment doesn’t just mean eating healthy foods. It’s about self-love; eating food that is good for your soul is important as well. So if you have chosen the ice cream—then enjoy it! But remember abstaining from certain foods, either regularly or as part of a fast, makes us more mindful in appreciating our often taken for granted abundance.
5) Don’t Drink – Drinking alcohol to unwind can be counterintuitive. If you enjoy a glass of red wine with a meal and you know that the alcohol will not affect your inhibitions then enjoy. However, be careful not to over consume or may find yourself unable to moderate anything that you are eating.
Mindful Eating in a Nutshell
Step One – The first step in weight loss is accepting yourself exactly where you are and how you are.
Step Two – Be mindful of what is nourishing you and what is blocking you on every level: people, habits, activities, TV shows, music and food. You don’t necessarily have to do anything about it yet. The point is to try to become a human being again instead of a human doing. Simply be aware of how you are affected by different aspects of your life and you may be surprised to see how easily the parts or people you don’t want just fall away as you become more conscious.
Step Three – Add a few practices mentioned above or in my previous articles about how to slow down and be conscious while eating. ie. Rate your hunger on a scale from 1 to 7, eating with the opposite fork, be aware of why you are eating (hunger, boredom or your emotions?) etc.
Step Four – Forgive yourself for any ‘slips’, be conscious of how they occurred and then move on. Try not to allow your ego to slide into self-loathing—when it does and you realize it move away from the ego’s drama and move onto to higher, positive thinking. The key to mindful eating is awareness and compassion.