Eating for well-being

Finding a quiet moment in a world of technology is difficult. Distractions are at the touch of a button. Review Abby's suggestions to help you pay attention and enjoy your meals and snacks.

We are a nation of multi-taskers. It seems that doing one thing at a time is rare and that includes while eating a meal or snack. Think back to your last meal. What did it look like? Were you relaxed? Did you notice what you were eating? Did you pay attention to your mouth and yourself? Most importantly, was the meal satisfying? Too often we have delicious food and don’t even recognize it. We simply tune out.

Focused eating or more commonly called, mindful eating, allows enjoyment of food. Both mean eating with awareness. Not awareness of the foods on your plate, but awareness of the eating experience. Noticing sensations that happen with eating – chewing, tasting, swallowing, hunger cues, appetite or even the emotional response. Focused eating is about the “how” and not the “what” of eating. Paying attention at the meal allows you to attend to the experience and become aware of sensations in the body. That awareness brings a choice with eating. The choice to eat more or to eat less. The choice to eat fast or to eat slow. What other choices do you have? What do you prefer?

Too often I hear clients tell me they can’t remember what they ate or before they knew it, the food was gone. The awareness is not there thus, no choice. Having a choice puts you in charge of your eating. Take charge of your eating, allow choices at your meals and snacks - pay attention!

Practicing Focused Eating

1.  Tune in to yourself.

Go to the table hungry and ready for a meal. Take a minute to relax before eating. Check in: How are you feeling? What is the intent with this meal or snack? Notice your internal regulation cues – hunger and appetite. Take a centering breath or two or three, maybe close your eyes and leave distractions behind. Relax.

2.  Tune in to your food.

Notice your food with all senses, before you take that first bite. Smelling it gives you that first introduction to the flavor of food. As you take a bite, notice chewing and swallowing of the food as it makes its way through your mouth and down your throat. When your mind starts to wonder, it’s okay. Slowly bring your attention back to the food in your mouth. Close your eyes and focus on what is going on - notice the experience.

3.  Ignore your plate.

Focus on what is happening with the food in your mouth. Give attention to what you are eating now, not what is coming with the next bite. Put a bite in your mouth and notice the taste and how you respond. Ignore what is waiting on the plate in front of you. Maybe put your fork down or close your eyes. The food on the pate is not going anywhere. Focus on the bite you have taken.

4.  Take time to eat.

Make time for regular and reliable meals. Taking time to pay attention to the eating experience allows you to enjoy the meal and feel satisfied. Try adding 5-10 minutes to your meals. A full day is 24 hours, taking at least 15 minutes for each meal seems reasonable. If you can, find a place to sit down, relax and enjoy it!

Focused eating takes practice. Practice as often as you like. Make discoveries about your eating behaviors and have a choice in the “how” you eat. Most importantly – truly enjoy the meal! After a while, you may find yourself checking-in with the first bite of every meal or snack to help set your focus. Take charge of your eating. Try this focused eating practice and see what you discover!

Abby Richey, MS ,RD

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