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We’re a society of people that eat on the go. We eat in our cars. We eat at our desks. As a whole, we rarely devote time to enjoying the eating process. The rushed way in which we eat contributes to stress and poor digestion. Stress is also a major contributor to weight gain. Naturally, de-stressing the eating process is a great place to start for mindfulness and stress reduction.

Outcomes of mindful eating include:

• Increased awareness of social and emotional influences on your decision to eat
• Decreased emotional eating
• Decreased overeating
• Greater self-awareness of how different foods affect your body
• Reaching your set point, which is the weight your body tries to keep itself at by altering metabolism, hunger and satiety levels as needed.

Mindful eating essentially allows you to take control over your food choices through increased awareness surrounding what affects your decision to eat or not eat.
Many people are intimidated by eating mindfully because they think they don’t have the time to “slow down and enjoy their food.” You’re too busy for that too, right?

As with most things in life, we tend to take an all-or-nothing approach. In general, I guide people away from that, especially when it comes to healthy eating, and mindful eating is no exception. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. We can start with simple things, which is better than making no effort at all.  Be sure to check out Meditate Your Way to a Healthy Diet



Five simple things you can start doing today to become a more mindful eater:

1. Take a deep breath. We go, go, go, all day long, and then when we sit down to eat, we tend to keep rushing even if we don’t need to. Taking a couple nice cleansing deep breaths before we begin eating can help put us in a more relaxed state during the eating process, which helps us to be more mindful. It also promotes good digestion to be in a more relaxed state when we eat. Even if you’re busy and on the go, you should have time for two deep breaths.

2. Ask yourself this simple question: Am I hungry or do I need something else? A good way to figure that out is to ask yourself if you would eat a [fill in your favorite fruit]? Because if you wouldn’t eat an apple or whatever food you’ve decided on, then you’re probably not actually hungry. You’re just wanting to eat to fill some other void. That gap could be boredom. It could be a little bit of anxiety. It could be stress. It could just be that the food is close by, and you saw it, and that visual stimulation prompted a desire to eat. If the answer to the question is, “No. I’m not really hungry,” then try to identify what it is that you do need, or what is triggering your desire to eat; and then find a solution that will address that specifically. In some situations, the answer will be apparent, and in others it’ll be a little more difficult. Hiring a registered dietitian or a therapist that has experience working with eating behaviors might be something of benefit if you’re having difficulty identifying and changing your eating triggers.

3. Start reading food labels. Part of mindfulness is knowing what is in your food. Oftentimes, we just choose items without really knowing what we’re eating. To become more aware and present during the eating process, start paying attention to what you’re actually eating. Read the ingredient list. Read the nutrition facts and educate yourself on what things you want to look for on food labels. Be very wary of buzz words that you see on the front of the label, because usually they are not regulated food claims and end up making the food sound much healthier than it actually is. Something else I like to do if I have the time, is to look at my food and actively imagine the journey that the food went on to get to my plate. Where was it grown? How did it travel? How was it processed? It’s really kind of a fun experience and brings about a greater sense of appreciation for your food.

4. Pay attention to your tummy. It’s very easy to feel a little grumble in your tummy, but then look at all the work in front of you, and hit the override button, saying to yourself, “I’ll just eat in a little bit when I finish this work.” Then, once you finally get to sit down and eat, you over eat because you are too hungry. It’s very hard to be mindful and aware of your eating when you have primal instincts kicking in telling you to eat, and eat now, because you’re too hungry. I can’t stress enough how important it is to feed your body when it’s hungry but not too hungry, and to stop eating when you’re satisfied but not full. I can tell you from personal experience, as well as feedback that I’ve heard from many of my clients, if you start eating before you’re too hungry, it’s easier to stop before you’re too full.

5. Slow down the eating process. Studies have shown that when we eat slower, we feel more satisfied from our food, and we show fewer signs of hunger up to two hours after the meal. That’s a good thing if you don’t want to get interrupted from your work for frequent food breaks. In general, it’s better to set aside dedicated time for eating, slowing down and actually enjoying the eating process, than to continue eating while you’re working.

The bottom line- Mindful eating doesn’t have to be all or nothing. You can fit it into your current lifestyle, food preferences, and dietary needs. Much easier than going on a diet… right?

If you want to learn more about mindful eating and get an introduction to meditation, join my mindful eating and meditation class. You must register, as space is limited. All donations for the class will benefit Lotus House in Miami.

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Dina Garcia, RD, LDN
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