One of the most common problems that comes up when I talk with clients is that they're simply not enjoying food anymore. They’re either bored with their choices, are sick of eating healthy, or can’t stop eating cookies. Whatever the problem, there's usually one thing in common: the way they eat their food.
When I ask what they’re doing when they eat breakfast, the most common answer I get is, “I’m in the car on my way to work.” Lunch is usually eaten in the office or at their desk. Dinner is usually a chaotic mess of getting food on the table, getting the kids to eat, and cleaning up within a reasonable hour. Worst of all is the nighttime snacking habit, which typically takes place right in front of the TV.
Notice a trend here? We've become a culture that rushes. There aren’t enough hours in the day. We don’t have time to sleep. Sitting at the table to eat a meal becomes a waste of time. But here is where the problem lies. When we don’t make our meals an experience, we don’t pay attention to things like the food, our hunger, our satisfaction; even our body digests the food we eat in this manner inefficiently.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to fix this problem. Here are my top tips for eating mindfully and making your meals an experience.
1. Slow down.
Yes, you do have time to eat. Slow down and take your time. Not only will you enjoy your meal more, but this will also give you time to relax. Relaxation plays a critical role in how our bodies digest our food. Eat a meal relaxed and your body will be able to fully digest and absorb the food you eat to get the full benefit. Eat a meal stressed and your body will do what it can with the food and likely store most of it; not an ideal situation if you’re looking to lose weight or feel great.
2. Set the table and sit at it.
When we finally sit down at the table, we're able to relax, slow down, and eat without distractions. Can you really promise, if you eat on the couch in front of the TV, that you won’t turn it on until you finish eating? Don’t forget to set your table too. Even if you're snacking, put your snack on a plate, sit at the table, and enjoy. This way you'll be able to pay attention, slow down, and check in with your hunger.
3. Create ambience.
We often reach for food to give us a certain feeling or emotion. Instead of needing some elaborate dinner, why not decorate your kitchen instead? Or, if you’re seeking comfort, why not light a bunch of candles instead of stuffing your face with macaroni and cheese? Finding non-food ways to get the feelings we crave is key in making our meals an experience.
Cooking can give us more appreciation for the food in front of us because we've taken the time to prepare it. Play around with flavoring, spices, tastes, and textures. Experiment to find what dishes you like best. Make your meals colorful and beautiful. All of this will contribute to how much you actually enjoy your meal.
5. Notice hunger cues.
In addition to paying attention to your food, note your hunger and satisfaction levels while you eat. Because you're slowing down your meals, you'll have more time to put the fork down between bites and check in with yourself. Gone are the days of inhaling your dinner. Give yourself the time to ask, “Am I still hungry?” If the answer is yes, continue eating; if not, stop. Pretty simple when you take the time to listen.
Still struggling with this concept? I can help check out my guide to ditching the diets and ditching the misery, which you can sign up for here.