Tips for Eating More Mindfully
As promised, the following are some tips for eating more mindfully as suggested in, “The Diet Fix: Why Diets Fail and How to Make Yours Work” by Yoni Freedhoff, MD.
How to Eat More Mindfully with Your Mind:
- The first step is becoming more aware. Developing this awareness does not take a lot of time or effort. It does require you to place your attention and mental focus on what you are eating and the experience of eating. Before you begin take a few deep breaths and notice your breath and relax. Then use all your senses to notice color, shape, shadows, patterns, textures, etc. Notice these with your eyes and your tongue. Notice smells with your nose and the sound of chewing different foods with your ears. Notice how the food makes you feel. Try to stay with your sensations.
- Observe your hungry mind and your full mind. How are they different. What are your thoughts, feelings, and sensations when you are full as opposed to when you are hungry? Also observe what your comfortably full mind experiences.
- Decelerate your eating, slowly but surely. Some suggestions to accomplish this are to switch hands, chew more, stay with each bite for awhile, eat with small utensils, take an intermission, pace yourself, play some slow music. See what works for you.
- Become more aware of how and why you are eating. If you are keeping a food journal, try recording not just what you eat but how eating affects your mind, body, thoughts, and feelings. Be compassionate with yourself in this process.
- Practice sitting with uncomfortable feelings and not using food to numb them. Accept whatever feelings come without judgment.
- Practice living in the present. Being present while eating is part of this practice.
- Be mindfully compassionate with yourself. Notice how you speak to yourself and counter critical thoughts with statements like, “It’s okay; next time, it will be easier.”
- Learn how to deal with the blues mindfully by experimenting with different ways to relieve stress and talking to a trusted friend or a professional.
- Overcome any negative body thoughts. Practice positive ways of thinking about and talking to yourself about your body.
How to Eat More Mindfully with Your Body:
- Practice body relaxation by tensing various body parts and then feeling them relax. Knowing what your body feels like when it is relaxed can counter the anxiety that sometimes leads to mindless eating.
- Practice breathing deeply and mindfully.
- Notice how your body moves and practice moving more mindfully. Then notice if the food you are eating is helping you to have energy to move better.
- Learn some yoga poses to become more mindful in your movement.
- Let go of images of your former or future body. Accept and love your body as it is in this moment.
- Dress in ways that help you feel good about your body.
- Become very familiar with what real body hunger feels like.
- Say goodbye to your scales. They are not an accurate measurement of your worth or your progress. Think health, not weight.
- Handle cravings mindfully, noticing when they happen and what you crave, and responding with the healthiest option possible.
- Add more movement to your day and enjoy that movement. Listen to your body where exercise is concerned and do not overdo it.
- Notice if you use internal or external cues to signal when you are done eating. If you feel a need to eat everything on the plate, put less on the plate. Stop eating when your body tells you to.
How to Eat More Mindfully with Your Feelings:
- Study episodes of emotional eating. Figure out what triggered them.
- Remember that feelings are just feelings. They come, and they go. What feels unbearable right now may not feel so bad in a little while.
- Breathing deeply is one of the best ways to calm feelings. Do a little deep breathing before eating.
- Be mindful of how the people you are eating with may be affecting your eating, You do not have to eat as quickly or as much as they do.
- Approach holiday meals mindfully by planning ahead, not eating too early in the day, not over baking, snacking slowly, staying present, being discriminating, and being aware of portion sizes.
- Dine out mindfully by choosing what you eat wisely, snacking on an apple beforehand, ordering soup or salad, drinking lots of water, not going out while extremely hungry, sharing with a friend, and not picking at your food after you are satisfied.
- Examine what sort of food culture you grew up in and how that may affect the way you feel about food. Decide what type of food culture you want for your own family.
- Fill up on fun to avoid eating from boredom. Practice being still without being bored.
How to Eat More Mindfully with Your Thoughts:
- Change mindless thinking. For a week keep track of the thinking traps you fall into. Do you engage in pigeon-hole thinking—using self-imposed rules or statements, robotic thinking—not paying attention to where you are or what you are doing, or routine thinking—doing the same things at the same times in the same way every day?
- Practice not engaging in mindless thinking traps such as “extreme” thinking (I am either perfect or a failure), “worst-case scenario” thinking (If I eat this cookie I will gain ten pounds), “overstating the facts” thinking (Being fat means you must be lazy), “turning micro into macro” thinking (If I overeat again my life will be ruined forever), “abracadabra” thoughts (If I run three miles a day, I will not gain weight), “putting on blinders” thinking (The way I eat is not harmful to me), “overdoing it” thinking (Everyone is looking at my body), “random theory” thinking (If I continue to exercise I will never feel distressed again), and “no backup” thinking (People always like those who are thin). See if you can find a “Middle Way” for your thoughts to track instead.
- Use mindful imagery to imagine yourself eating and responding to food in the way you desire.
- Plan meals mindfully by eating at least three times a day, eating every three hours, following a balanced meal plan, getting energy from the food you eat, checking your vitamin intake, planning the meals for the whole day, choosing hot foods, avoiding finger foods or appetizers, steering clear of binge foods, avoiding drugs and alcohol, and consulting with a dietitian if needed.
- Silence your inner food critic and be compassionate in your self-speech. Also be compassionate with others. Do not make comments about your own weight or anyone else’s.
- When you get discouraged think progress not perfection, take charge of the moment without focusing on past or future, make now a non-regrettable moment, and find true comfort instead of momentary pleasure.
After giving us all this great advice about how to eat mindfully, Dr. Friedhoff gives us this important reminder, “Remember that mindful eating takes time and practice. It won’t happen overnight. Stay with it!”
I hope there are some suggestions in these lists that you will find helpful in pursuing your own mindful eating. I would love to hear about any experiences you have in this journey.