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Strategies for Mindful Eating

Strategies for Mindful Eating

Grace Bennett, RDN
Population Health Specialist Apex Benefits

How often do you think about food? What about your food environment? Of all the food-related decisions you’re faced with each day, most are made as a result of convenience or habit.

When it comes to healthy eating, your home environment or meal-time tendencies may be working against you. Luckily, you have the power to control what goes on in your kitchen and at your table.

Here are three common barriers to successful eating and how to deal with them accordingly:

Distractions

Distractions are everywhere. A systematic review of 24 studies showed that eating while distracted (in front of the television, on a smartphone, while reading, etc.) leads to increased immediate food intake and even more so throughout the rest of the day. You can only focus on so much at once. If your attention is fixed on the distraction, it is more difficult to be fully aware of how much food you’ve eaten. This impaired memory can result in overeating, which can ultimately contribute to weight gain.

Success Strategy: Turn off the television, put away your phone and focus on eating. Enjoy the smells and flavors of your food. This will enhance the memory of your meal, which will help minimize mindless intake!

 

Packaging

There is growing popularity of “value-“ or “family-sized” food items. While this may be good for the wallet, it can pose an additional barrier to healthy eating. Research from the National Library of Medicine suggests that eating directly out of a package may lead to increased food intake. In particular, the larger the package, the more food tends to be consumed. Many times, this eating behavior is accompanied by some form of distraction, as discussed above. The combination of these two things could easily lead to mindless eating – dangerous!

Success Strategy: Try portioning out an individual serving into a separate dish and leave the package in the pantry. The same concept can be applied to meals; instead of serving “family style,” try starting with balanced portions on your plate. This allows you to have foresight and helps put you in control.

 

Speed

Eating slowly is often easier said than done. However, doing so may help you become more in tune with the body’s natural cues. As you eat, a hormone called leptin, which is responsible for appetite reduction and feelings of fullness, is released. An article from Harvard Medical School suggests it can take up to 20 minutes for the brain to register leptin’s effects. In other words, you might keep eating without realizing you’re full.

Success Strategy: Try different methods to slow down your meal like setting your fork down or taking small sips of water between bites. This will give you time to listen to what your body is trying to tell you.

 

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the thought of making nutrition-related lifestyle improvements. However, it’s important to remember that small changes can have big, sustainable results. Pause in chaos of everyday life and try to be mindful about your food choices and behaviors – we promise it’s worth it.