Have you ever experienced a moment of indulgence that led to overeating? Haven’t we all?? If it happens once in a while, it’s nothing to worry about. But if it happens frequently, you may wonder if you have an overeating problem which can also be referred to as a “food addiction”. In fact, the existence of food addiction is hotly debated. Many people unconsciously overeat and don’t realize it until after they finish a meal. That’s where mindfulness exercises can help you stick to reasonable portion sizes.
– Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment and observing the inputs flooding your senses. At mealtime think about how the food looks, how it tastes and smells. What’s the texture? What memories does it bring up? How does it make you feel?
– By being mindful at meals, you’ll slow the eating process, pay more attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues, and perhaps avoid overeating. Set yourself up for success in being mindful when you eat by:
- Removing distractions: Turn off phones, TVs, and computers. Eat in a peaceful, uncluttered space.
- Pacing yourself for a 20-minute meal: Set aside 20-30 minutes per meal so you don’t rush through.
- Aim for 32-40 Chews: You want to completely pulverize every bite to help with digestion, this will also help you feel full faster! Chew your food slowly (32-40 times PER BITE) and and put your fork down between bites.
- Focused breathing: Breathe in and breathe out slowly. With each in-breath, allow your belly to go out. With each out-breath, allow your belly to go in. This engages the diaphragm, which is connected to the nerves between the brain and gut, and promotes relaxation.
- Take a mindful walk before eating, even if it’s just for five minutes: Use your senses to take in your surroundings. What colors are the leaves on trees? Are there cracks on the ground, and where are they? What does the air smell like? Do you feel a breeze on your skin?
If you are new to mindfulness, start with one meal a day where you are very intentional with your eating practice, and then build gradually to all meals and every time you eat. The more mindful you become throughout your day, the more mindful you’ll become when you eat. And you may find that you’re better able to make decisions about the food you consume!
Written by GUADS intern Sara and GUADS staff member Kate with contributions from (https://www.health.harvard.edu/)