By Emily Schmitt, RD, LDN, Campus Recreation Services
“What’s wrong with making mealtime a joyous occasion?” – Snoopy, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown
It’s a Wednesday night. You’ve had a hectic day at work, and you race out of the office to meet a friend who you have not seen in eons for dinner. The fall semester is just days away, and as you pull into the restaurant parking lot, thoughts of all of the time-consuming “to dos” on your To Do List circle throughout your head. You find your friend, are seated quickly, and get swept up in a whirlwind dining experience. You’re so concerned with getting the details of your friend’s latest adventures that before you know it you look down at your plate of… whatever it was… and it’s gone. You’ve just had a not-so-mindful eating experience.
Most of us can identify a similar experience in our own life. Whether we are eating while driving to work, sitting in front of the TV, or at our desk, responding to e-mails between bites, our focus is not on our meal.
We do not savor the flavors and textures of each bite. We do not check-in with our body during the meal to determine if we are still hungry, satisfied, or stuffed.
Instead, we simply chow down, allowing our meal to become just another item on our daily To Do List.
Oftentimes, not-so-mindful eating can allow us to unknowingly eat past that “pleasantly full” feeling. While we may eat more at this meal, we may still feel unsatisfied, leaving us open to overeating later in the day to try to make-up for this dissatisfaction.
How can you eat more mindfully today? Test out these tips.
- Eat without distractions – that means no computer, radio, TV, newspapers, books, or loud music. Avoid eating while driving.
- Eat when you are sitting down – not standing at the stove, refrigerator, or sink.
- Eat at least one meal alone every few days. Pay careful attention to the process of eating, tasting, chewing, and swallowing. Notice what eating is like when there is no one to talk to and nothing else to focus on.
- When you eat, avoid emotional conversations. Create a positive environment whenever possible.
- Slow down. Are you a speed eater? Time your meal, making a conscious effort to increase the time between your first and last bites.
- Take a break mid-meal. Set your fork down. Chat with your friend. Excuse yourself to go to the bathroom. Afterwards, re-evaluate your hunger. Are you satisfied?
- Write down what you are eating and drinking. – Whether your food journal is on paper, in a Word document on your work computer, or in a mobile phone app, this strategy will help you be more aware of your food choices. You might consider including food type, amount of food, time and location of meal, a pre and post-meal “hunger rating” of 1-10, and at least 1 adjective describing your mood before and after the meal. Rating your hunger will encourage you to listen to your hunger and fullness signals, and allow them to guide your food choices. Describing your mood before and after the meal will allow you to see links between your mood and the type and amount of food eaten.
What mindful eating strategies do you use? Tell us below.Resources: Breaking Free from Emotional Eating, Geneen Roth Psychology Today – Stress and Eating Mayo Clinic – Weight-Loss Help: Gain Control of Emotional Eating