Mindful Eating: Savor the Flavor
The concept of mindful living means paying attention to the events, activities and thoughts that make up your daily life. It means doing things with purpose, not just going through routine motions with little awareness of what is being done at any given moment.
When applied to our dietary habits, mindful eating means eating with awareness of what is on your plate and what you are putting in your mouth. You may have heard the expression “savor the flavor”. This is part of what is involved with mindful eating. Being more conscious of the entire eating experience is another part.
Consider the person who sits down to watch television at night, bowl of ice cream in hand. They may be aware of the first few bites and the last few bites. But often all the ice cream eaten in between those first and last bites, is lost to whatever program is on the screen.
Think about the busy person who grabs a quick bite as they run here and there. Do they really enjoy what they are eating or even remember at the end of the day what and how much they consumed?
A food and beverage research study conducted at Cornell University found that participants thought they made an average of fourteen food and beverage decisions each day. After creating an aggregated index of food decisions actually made, the results showed that participants made over 226 decisions about food and beverages each day. Researchers concluded that not only are most people unaware of just how often they are faced with eating decisions; they are equally unaware of what is influencing their choices. Often those influences are negative.
But there is hope. The Cornell researchers suggest that people can improve their eating habits by just making small behavior changes over time. Likewise, other studies have shown that those who adopt ways to live and eat more mindfully have improved health and are better able to control their weight.
Here are some suggestions to help you start living and eating more mindfully:
Set realistic expectations. Start small. Select one meal or snack each day and commit to focusing on mindful eating for just that time.
Only eat at the table. Minimize mindless eating by sitting down and giving the meal your full attention. Do not grab food to eat on the run. Do not eat while driving or working at your desk.
Set aside time for eating without other distractions that make it difficult to focus. Don’t try to multi-task. This means no cell phone, no television, no computer or newspaper. You want to be fully in-the-moment while eating.
Use cutlery and put it down between mouthfuls. When you eat more slowly, you may also notice the exact moment when you feel satisfied rather than stuffed.
Focus on each mouthful. Think about the flavor, texture and even the sound of the food in your mouth. Enjoy the sensual, as well as the nourishing capacity of the food.
Aim for quality, not quantity. Often this helps people make better food and preparation decisions as they think about what they will be eating and how they will be preparing it. It also makes them more conscious of how much they are eating as they learn to enjoy smaller portions.
Mindful eating is not something that has a beginning or an end. Rather it is an ongoing journey, a journey that can lead to positive results. Armed with these suggestions, perhaps you can begin your mindful journey toward better health and nutrition today.