Mindful eating

Tomatoes

Slow down to slim down

Eating mindfully means being totally aware of what and how you eat — from how your food tastes to how it makes you feel, physically and emotionally.

Photo of arugula on a forkWhen you eat while multitasking (at your computer, on the phone, in front of the TV) your brain is busy with tasks other than eating. Without even realizing it, you'll eat more food and enjoy it less — and that's a recipe for weight gain.

To slow down and avoid overeating, try to pay close attention to each bite.

  • What does your food smell like?
  • What does it feel like in your mouth? Moist, crunchy, soft, chewy?
  • Is it hot or cold?
  • What are the different flavors? Spicy, sour, sweet?
  • Does it remind you of other food experiences?

Be in the moment

Here are some more ways you can be "in the moment" while eating:

Breathe.
Take a deep breath between bites. This will help calm your mind and focus your thoughts.

Chew slowly.
Try to make your meal last at least 20 minutes, about the time it takes for your stomach to tell your brain that you're full.

Don't judge.
Thoughts like "I should eat more of this" or "I shouldn't eat that" can make mealtime stressful. Choose foods that make you feel good about what you're eating.

Eat with your eyes.
Make your meal more satisfying by taking a few moments to set the table and arrange your food nicely on the plate. How your food looks is almost as important as how it tastes.

Pause and focus.
Put your fork down between bites to help you slow down and enjoy your meal.

Rate your hunger.
Use a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is the most hungry you've ever been and 10 is completely full. Try to eat when your hunger is level 3 or 4, before you're starving. Stop at level 7 or 8, before you're stuffed.

Just do your best

Kids, work, and other distractions can make it hard to focus at mealtimes. You might not be able to eat mindfully all the time, but try to do it for at least one meal or snack each day. You may want to make it the meal where you most often overeat.

Even if you can't focus on eating mindfully for an entire meal, try to find a few moments to relax, think about your food, and enjoy what's on your plate.

 Reviewed by: Adam Tsai, MD, November 2018