Have you ever thought about how often you make decisions about your food and how much time you spend eating every day? Because food is such a large part of your day, why not pay attention to it more when you sit down to eat? This is when mindful eating can help you slow down the pace of your eating and help make you more mindful of your food choices naturally.
Mindfulness is the act of being aware of your movement, thoughts and actions, and being fully present in the moment. It is this act of presence that builds greater awareness in how we respond to stressors, feelings and other people, and it has been shown to help people with both clinical and non-clinical issues (Grossman et al., 2004).
Mindfulness can also be used while eating. Mindful eating is a simple yet impactful tool to help you gain control over your eating habits by being more aware of your overall eating experience, hunger, satiety, triggers, senses and gratitude for the food in front of you.
Mindful eating may not only prevent weight gain, but it may also address problematic eating behaviors such as binge and emotional eating, as well as eating as a response to external cues (Warren, Smith and Ashwell, 2017). It has also been shown that mindful eating can have a positive effect on emotional eaters by helping them develop healthier eating habits, which can be a key to overall emotional wellness (Frayn, Livshits and Knäuper, 2018).
When stress is overwhelming and you find yourself eating too quickly or reaching for food to help you cope, take a moment to pause and appreciate the food in front of you.
Sit: Always sit down when you eat. The act of sitting generally makes you eat at a slower pace compared to eating while standing. Be sure to not have the television on in front of you, because that is an automatic distraction.
Smile and say thanks: Who does not feel good after they smile? By being appreciative of the food in front of you, you will approach the meal with a sense of gratitude, knowing that not everyone has easy access to food.
See: Take a moment to look at your food. Look at all of the colors and textures of each ingredient in your meal.
Smell: Can you notice different aromas and seasoning nuances to the meal in front of you?
Savor: This is often the most difficult part of the 5-S Plan because you will focus on chewing slowly and savoring each bite of the meal in front of you. Try to challenge yourself by chewing each bite at least 20 seconds. Do not pick up another bite of food until after you swallow your current bite.
Because it takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to realize you are full, the act of eating slowly can leave you feeling less rushed and more satisfied with your meals.
Taking the time to slow down the pace of your eating and to savor the food and people in front of you—as well as savoring the moment—can prove beneficial to you and your relationship with food. Try these tips for slowing down during your next few meals, and see which ones work best for you. If you cannot remember what the 5-S steps are, just focus on eating slowly and savoring your meal, one bite at a time.