If you read women’s magazines or attend yoga class, then you are most likely familiar with the term “mindfulness.” This ancient practice is becoming more and more mainstream as people realize it’s incredible healing power. It originates from Zen Buddhist philosophy and is the practice of being totally in the moment. If you are practicing mindfulness, you aren’t thinking about what you are going to make for dinner, where you are going on vacation, or the difficult situation that you were in at work yesterday. You are simply in the moment and in total awareness of your surroundings, how you are feeling, and what your senses are experiencing.
Mindfulness is not just some woo-woo belief system reserved for hippies and Buddhists. It has been scientifically shown to be an effective method for improving mental health, physical health, and overall well-being. When we combine this philosophy with the act of eating, it can also be of great benefit to those that struggle with emotional eating and weight loss.
I have been coaching women in weight loss for about 8 years now, and over time, I have moved away from the typical approach of calorie counting, calorie burning, and portioning out foods to one of mindful eating and mindset change. If you want weight loss results that are sustainable in the long run, you must go deep and address the tough stuff. I am talking about root issues such as food addiction, emotional eating, and bad habits programmed from an early age. Mindful eating is a powerful tool that can help in this process.
Eating mindfully may seem a bit awkward at first, but it is not complicated. Anyone can do this. When done consistently, that is when the magic happens. That is when you start to reprogram your brain, your approach to eating, and your relationship with food. I challenge you to give it a shot today and implement the 5 Ss of Mindful Eating.
1. Slowly Chew
There are some general rules out there, like chew 20 times before swallowing. This is not always possible and is going to vary depending on the texture of the food that you are eating. Good luck chewing a bite of banana 20 times! However, we often eat too quickly, and fail to chew our food properly. This impairs digestion and leads to overeating. On the other hand, if we chew each bite thoroughly, we do three good things.
First, we remove some of the burden of digestion from the rest of the digestive tract. In doing so, we reduce the likelihood of bloat, stomach upset, and sapped energy levels. We also make it easier for our body to absorb the nutrients in our food.
Second, is that we fully taste our food. Believe it or not, the taste of a food changes over the course of chewing it! Try this exercise. Take a small cracker and slowly chew it. Notice the flavor when you start chewing versus the flavor right before you swallow. It will have become sweeter. It blew my mind the first time I tried this!
Third, we allow our brain to catch up to our belly when we eat slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for the brain to register fullness. If you scarf down a meal in 5 minutes, you will almost surely feel unsatisfied. However, if you stretch that same meal out to 20 minutes, you won’t want to eat anything else when you are done. Your brain will have had a change to register fullness.
When we eat meals made from simple ingredients, we tend to feel satisfied sooner and are less likely to overeat. It’s best to focus on fresh, whole foods. When we use highly palatable ingredients (hello cheese and bread!) and then process them into
something like pizza, it becomes very easy to overeat. Simple dinners don’t have to be boring. Would you enjoy the following for dinner? I know I would!
Grilled fish + steamed vegetables with freshly chopped herbs and a drizzle of olive oil + rosemary and garlic roasted potatoes
You have a delicious, nourishing, and simple dinner, one that you are unlikely to overeat. It also only takes 30 minutes to prepare.
3. Sit Down
When we eat on the run or while completing other tasks (checking email, scrolling Facebook), we pay less attention to the food in front of us and eat mindlessly, one bite after another. To me this is such a missed opportunity for pleasure! We should look forward to mealtime, enjoy it, and involve all the senses. The truth is, we don’t only eat with our mouths and bellies, but also our eyes, nose, and mind. By giving our food only part of our attention, we don’t satisfy the other types of hunger. This leads to food cravings and a general sense of never feeling satisfied.
I truly believe that the more we smile, the happier we are in life. Have you ever walked out the door in a sour mood and compared that to a day when you walked out with a big smile on your face? You almost surely had a far better day in that second scenario. A smile is a powerful thing, so powerful that it impacts the energy that comes back to us from the world and the other people in it. When we smile before a meal and feel grateful for it, it becomes easier to take our time while eating and give it the attention it deserves.
This is my favorite of the S’s! To savor a food means to taste and enjoy it completely. To do this, we must eat with all five senses. We can smell our food. Does it smell buttery, herbal, spicy, or sweet? In my opinion, there is no better smell than that of fresh bread baking in the oven. The smell is part of the eating experience! We can also feel our food in our mouth and note the texture and consistency. We see our food, unless we are in one of those wacky black out restaurants, which is a concept I still cannot grasp. The French put a great deal of efforts towards food presentation, because they understand that we also eat with our eyes. And don’t forget about the ears! Food makes sound as well when we cut into it and chew it. It can be subtle, so we must present enough to hear.
Those are the 5 Ss of mindful eating; hopefully, they give you some food for thought! If you often find that you overeat or eat for the wrong reasons, these can be incredibly powerful rules when applied consistently. Consider writing them out on a piece of paper and keeping them somewhere visible in your kitchen. You an also use this printout: 5 Ss' of Mindful Eating. That way, they are top of mind when it comes time to eat.