This blog post was written by our last dietetic intern from Fresno State, Kat Vietti
Have you ever sat down to a meal, blink and wonder where all the food went or wonder why it is you are still pining for more right after dinner? If you have ever experienced one of these or something similar, you are not alone. The way in which Americans eat is often on the go, involves distraction or can be described as an eating contest with little attention given to the food or personal hunger. This type of eating has become so common that many do not realize this is something that was not normal a few decades ago. In fact, research has found that this sort of mindless eating is one factor that can lead to weight gain.
You may be wondering, “How can I stop this sort of eating pattern?” One of the best ways to counteract “mindless eating” is being more mindful. Mindful eating is not a special diet, but a way of approaching with the mindset of being more aware. This includes being more aware of yourself (emotions and bodily cues such as hunger and satiety), the moment, environment, and the food (taste, texture, and smell).
There are many benefits to mindful eating including: sustainability (this is not a strict diet, but rather an approach), weight management, increased feeling of self-esteem and wellbeing, a renewed sense of hunger and satiety.
Tips to become a more mindful eater:
- Be aware of hunger and satiety cues. Your body sends these cues for a reason; think about babies – they eat when hungry and stop when full. Let your hunger and satiety cues assist you in knowing when to eat and when to stop eating.
- Eat when hungry, not ravenous, and stop when full, not stuffed
- Recognize what may be causing you to eat. Ask yourself, “Am I eating because I am hungry?” Or are you eating for different reasons such as emotions, fatigue, boredom, etc. Once these “triggers” are identified, try to avoid them.
- Eat away from distractions. When we eat and are distracted, we don’t enjoy our food and will often eat so quickly we still feel hungry. When we eat quickly the brain hasn’t had time to register that we have eaten enough. (It takes about 20 minutes for the brain to realize you are full.)
- Slow down, be in the moment and enjoy eating. Think about the food including presentation, smell, taste and texture. You may be surprised to find that your food preferences are different than you once thought.
- Enjoy foods that are both nutritious and delicious. Mindful eating involves enjoying foods without judgment (there is no such thing as “good” or “bad” foods). Food is meant to be nourishing and pleasurable.
- Optional: Keeping a journal is a great way to become more mindful. In this journal, write down your hunger before and after eating; what you ate; the time you ate; emotions before, during and after eating. Now go back and reflect on what you have written and see if you can find any “triggers” that may cause you to eat and think of any ways to become more mindful while eating.
For more information and assistance in mindful eating, make an appointment with one of our registered dietitians (RD).
- The Center for Mindful Eating: http://thecenterformindfuleating.org.
- Mathieu J. What Should You Know about Mindful and Intuitive Eating? J Acad Nutr Diet. 2009; 109(12) :1982-1987
- Fletcher M. Understanding Mindful Eating. Weight Management Matters. 2010 7(4) ;1-17.
- Harris C. Mindful Eating- Studies Show This Concept Can Help Clients Lose Weight and Better Manage Chronic Disease. Today’s Dietitian Website. http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/030413p42.shtml. Published March 2013. Accessed January 8, 2016.