5 Steps to Mindful Eating

How many times have you caught yourself standing over the sink, nibbling on that decadent late night snack? When was the last time you stood in front of your cupboard reaching for that handful -- and then the next -- of that salty treat?

How often do you sit back after munching on a bowl of popcorn and say, “Why did I just eat that? I wasn’t even hungry!”

We all want to eat more mindfully, no matter what kind of eater we are. Most of us are desperate to feel - and to be - healthy. 

Many people who seek out counseling -- even if they present first with depression -- are also now asking for accountability and help with nutrition -- diet, weight loss and exercise.  And these issues are so often integrally linked with self-esteem.

When people come seeking help for eating issues, I like to point them toward the concept of “Mindful Eating”. Mindful Eating is a way of being present with and enjoying food for its flavor, texture, and nutritional value. Since so many of us turn to food for comfort (filling our emotional needs with the pleasurable sensations of food) mindful eating has gained clinical and popular attention as a way to help people re-evaluate their choices and to enjoy food for its full taste and  sensuous experience. 

Dr. Susan Albers, clinical psychologist, mindful eating expert and best selling author of several books on mindful eating, offers five step steps to mindful eating that are successful in slowing down consumption, curbing over-eating and making the practice of eating more healing and nourishing.

5 STEP TO MINDFUL EATING - Here is my summary of her recent lecture from the Mindfulness Summit:

  1. Sit down when you eat. See if you can go with the mantra: “only eat off your feet”. Make the process and practice of consuming food important. Give it a seat at the table.
  2. Slow down when chew. Try to eat with your non-dominant hand. Research shows that eating with your non-dominant hand slows down consumption by 30%. Research also shows that we match the pace of the ones we eat with. Pay attention to your pace and companions.
  3. Savor your food. Avoid what Dr. Albers calls “Zombie eating”. You’d be surprised to find how many of us are eating without realizing it -almost if we are “asleep” while consume our food. Awareness and savoring will avoid the dreaded question of “WHY did I just eat that?” or “Why did I eat that MUCH?”  By taking “mindful bites” and noticing each spoonful that hits the tongue, you will soon realize that it’s the first bite that carries the most flavor. It's that first bite hitting your taste buds for the first time that sends those signals to the brain about what is truly savor-able.
  4. Simplify. When you eat, just eat. Don’t multi-task. Place healthy foods -- cut up carrots, almonds, a bowl of fresh green apples - in sight for you to access readily.
  5. Laugh. Smile in between each bite. Smiling increases serotonin, which will decrease the tendency to eat for comfort. If smiling doesn’t work between every bite, pause and take a breath between bites. 

For more information on mindful eating visit www. eatingmindfully.com, Dr. Alber's website with resources such as her upcoming book, 50 More Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food.