Food exists to nourish us, but we’re no strangers to extending that definition to emotional nourishment alongside our physical needs. Reading any diet book, study, or article leads us to the same conclusion whenever we’re trying to nourish and maintain weight: eat nutritious foods without over-consuming calories. It’s the only diet tip that always works, and every single fad diet is based on it. Eat fewer calories than your body needs to lose weight. But what happens if you consume calories mindlessly when you’re amid an emotional situation or you lose track of your body cues when out at dinner?
It’s common not to recognize hunger cues in our multi-tasking world. We’re used to quickly eating dinners while watching TV, snacking mindlessly when bored, and consuming over-sized restaurant meals, cleaning the plate whether or not we’re hungry. Mindful eating combats over-consumption of calories by drawing awareness to the food, which also increases the pleasure of the meal. This leads to more satiety and an ability to recognize when your body is full. The practice allows you to slow down during your meal and shut out any distractions to ensure you focus on the meal in front of you. It’s a difficult practice for those of us juggling multiple responsibilities, but if you’re serious about your health, it’s essential to make room for the practice.
Next time you reach for a snack, sit down at the kitchen table, and consume it in the same way you would consume a full meal. Don’t bring your chips bag into the living room with you to watch TV. Your sole focus should only be to eat those chips if you’re genuinely craving them. Take your time, and eat them one by one, recognizing the body cues. Yes, it’s probably a lot more boring than your routine of snacking on the go, and that’s the point. It forces you to think about what you’re doing with your food instead of just shoveling food in your mouth. Note how your body feels, and stomach feel during and after the meal.
Use this practice for all your meals. You may start with just snacks if you find those are the ones adding the most calories to your day, but extend the practice to your dinners next. Make the time to carve out the healthy habits you’d like in your life, and if that means you have to put off a phone call with a friend while you’re eating dinner or lunch, then let them know you’ll call them after you’re finished with your meal. Pay attention to the flavors and savor the moment, and you might find that not only do you consume less, but your tastes might also change.