Do you remember the last time you sat down and enjoyed a quiet, peaceful meal without any distractions? I mean no television, texting, or checking social media feeds, just you and the food.
For many, a leisurely meal is a rare occurrence. Instead, eating on the run and focusing attention elsewhere is far more common.
That kind of distracted eating may put your health at risk, as some research suggests it can contribute to weight gain and obesity.
Stress receptors in your stomach are activated as it fills with food. These receptors send satiety (fullness) messages to your brain through the vagus nerve, which connects the brain to the stomach.
As food begins to enter the intestines, appetite hormones are released, sending additional fullness messages to the brain. This process, however, is not immediate. It can take about 20 minutes – or even longer – for your brain to realize it’s time to stop eating.
When you eat too quickly, this intricate system does not have enough time to work, making it very easy to overeat without knowing it. It also does not allow you to enjoy your food or feel satisfied fully.
Mindful eating can change that. It is the act of fully focusing on your food as you eat it. This type of eating encourages you to pay closer attention to the tastes, smells, and textures of your meal and your body’s satiety signals.
One small study found that when ten obese volunteers participated in weekly mindful eating classes for three months, they went on to lose an average of 9 pounds and reported less hunger, stress, anxiety, depression, and binge eating.
Weight loss can also contribute to better heart health, improved metabolic function, and may reduce the risk or impact of chronic inflammatory conditions.
Here are some things you can try to help you eat mindfully:
- Create a calm, uncluttered space for eating.
- Set a timer for 20 minutes and pace yourself so you finish eating as the alarm sounds
- Put your cell phone on do not disturb, and let your machine take care of calls to the house
- Put away computers, tables, smartphones, reading materials, etc.
- Turn off TV
- Think about the bite of food you are chewing at that moment
- Put the fork down between bites
- Chew a mouthful at least 30 times