Are you a mindful eater? Do you regularly gulp down your brekkie while making the kids’ packed lunches? A master of a rushed lunch at your desk while checking your emails? And your most regular dinner companion is the TV? If so, it’s time to rethink your eating habits – you’ll even shed some calories too. Studies show that our habit of being distracted while we eat meals is making us put on weight. Try these tips for five minutes each week to turn you into a mindful eater…
1. Add five minutes to your mealtimes. To eat mindfully, your only focus needs to be on the food you’re eating. ‘The first step is to stop eating meals in front of the TV or your computer. And put your phone in another room,’ says Dr Michelle Braude, founder of The Food Effect. ‘Try adding five minutes to the time you take to eat your meal every day, increasing by five minutes each week. By the end of the month you’ll be taking 20 minutes longer over your meal, which is ideal, as it takes 20 minutes between eating and our brains receiving the message that we’re full,’ explains Michelle. Use the added time to focus on your food’s colours (eat the rainbow for good health), textures, smells and shapes.
2. Chew slowly. Chewing every mouthful slowly increases the pleasure you get from eating. ‘Chewing properly also aids digestion, stops you from overeating and reduces any uncomfortable bloating you may experience from eating too quickly. It will also ensure your brain actually registers when you’ve eaten enough food… before it’s too late,’ says Michelle. Aim to chew until your mouthful of food has liquefied and lost its texture.
3. Keep a mindful food diary. At the end of every day, or during the day, spend five minutes jotting down everything you ate and drank. ‘This allows you to recognise any undesirable eating habits. You’ll be more mindful of your eating from when you start journaling,’ says Michelle. ‘Studies have shown that people who kept a food diary lost more weight than those who didn’t.’
4. Learn the mindfulness dark chocolate exercise. To fully appreciate how to slow down your eating, use this exercise as a starting point. Michelle explains: ‘Choose some chocolate (health and weight wise, anything 70% cocoa content or above is best). Open the packet and inhale the aroma. Break off a square and look at it. Let your eyes explore what it looks like, examining every nook and cranny. Pop it into your mouth. Hold it on your tongue and let it melt. After the chocolate has melted, swallow it slowly and deliberately. Let it glide down your throat. Repeat this with the next piece (you can have up to six squares as a decent-size healthy treat). Notice how you felt about eating the chocolate this way compared to the way you would normally eat a bar of chocolate. Use this exercise to practise mindful eating and let it guide you towards starting to appreciate your food.”