It’s easy to get distracted when you’re eating. Eating often takes a back seat to the day’s activities, and rushing through a meal or snack lets us get to the next order of business ASAP. If this sounds like you, don’t worry; it sounds like a lot of other people, too!
But that’s what makes mindful eating so important; when you take the time and effort to eat mindfully (which means paying attention to your food and your physical state while you’re eating), you’ll start to notice your hunger cues more, as well as the qualities of the food that you’re eating. This helps you control the amount and type of food that you eat, and makes your food more enjoyable, too.
In the long run, mindful eating is an essential tool you can use to manage your weight gain over the course of your pregnancy.
Here are four things you can do to remind yourself to eat mindfully at any meal in the future.
Chew more than you normally do
Chewing is an important part of mindfulness in eating. It helps you pay attention to the taste and texture of your food and slows down the whole eating process, which is especially important for people who tend to rush their meals.
Plus, chewing your food helps your digestion. Chewing breaks down the food which in turn reduces the amount of work that your esophagus has to do. It also prompts your mouth to release more saliva, which contains helpful digestive enzymes. So for both your brain and your stomach, chew away!
Put down the bag, pick up a plate
Numerous studies show that the size of your portions has just as much an effect on how much you eat as does the taste of food. Eating from a container or a bag is super fun and easy, but you’ll almost inevitably end up eating more, and not paying as much attention to your food this way. Start serving your food – even snacks – in a bowl or plate.
Manage mealtime distractions
The more distracted you are while you eat, the harder it will be to be mindful. Maybe you’re in the can’t-eat-breakfast-without-something-to-read club. Or maybe you’ve had nausea throughout your pregnancy, and eating while watching TV helps you ignore the unpleasant sensation. But the next time you eat, try removing as many distractions as possible. That means putting your phone somewhere else in the room, turning off the television, and closing the book you’ve been reading.
If the thought of eating in total silence stresses you out, maybe put on light music. The odds are good that the better you are at removing distractions, the better you’ll savor your meals and remember them afterwards, too.
How often in the middle of a meal do you stop eating? If it’s not a lot, try incorporating it into your regular mealtime routine. After you’ve had a few bites, put your utensils down and just rest for a minute or two, focusing on the things around you and how you’re feeling. Taking breaks while eating lets you savor your food, eat more slowly, and check in with yourself from time to time.
- “The importance of chewing your food.” HeritageIHC. Heritage Integrative Healthcare, 2017. Available at http://heritageihc.com/blog/chewing-your-food/.
- Michelle May, MD. “7 Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating Strategies that Help You “Eat Better.” AmIHungry. Am I Hungry?, 2017. Available at http://amihungry.com/articles/7-am-i-hungry-mindful-eating-strategies-that-help-you-eat-better/.
- G Richard Jansen, et al. Diet Evaluation: A Guide to Planning a Healthy Diet. Academic Press, Oct 22 2013. Web.
- B Wansink, J Kim. “Bad popcorn in big buckets: portion size can influence intake as much as taste.” J Nutr Educ Behav. 37(5):242-5. Web. Sep-Oct 2005.
- Susan Albers, PsyD. “7 Mindful Eating Tips.” Berkeley. National Eating Disorders Association, 2004. Available at https://uhs.berkeley.edu/sites/default/files/bewell_7mindful.pdf.
- Wynne Armand, MD.”10 tips for mindful eating — just in time for the holidays.” Harvard. Harvard University, Nov 2015. Available at http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/10-tips-for-mindful-eating-just-in-time-for-the-holidays-201511248698.