By Michelle May, M.D. - Excerpt from Chapter 13 of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes
Have you ever finished a cookie and wished you had another bite? Are you surprised when your hand hits the bottom of the bag? Do you ever feel lethargic or miserably stuffed after you eat? These may be symptoms of unconscious eating.
When you eat quickly or while distracted, you may feel stuffed but strangely unsatisfied. Rather than eating on autopilot, eat mindfully, with intention and attention. Eat with the intention of feeling better when you’re done than you did when you started. Eat with attention so you’ll eat less but enjoy it more.
- First, recognize whether you’re hungry before you start eating. Sometimes “I want a brownie” really means “I want a break.” When a craving doesn’t come from hunger, eating doesn’t satisfy it.
- Avoid working, driving, watching t.v. and other distractions while you eat.
- Sit down at a table—even if it’s just a snack.
- Next, decide how you want to feel when you’re finished. When you eat with the intention of feeling better than when you started, you’re less likely to overeat.
- Choose food that nourishes your body and your mind. Our society is so obsessed with “eating right” we sometimes eat things we don’t even like. Besides, deprivation and guilt cause more overeating.
- Connect with your body by taking a few deep, centering breaths.
- Take a moment to express appreciation for your food.
- Notice the aromas, colors, and textures.
- Select the perfect bite—not necessarily the healthiest, but the one you really want.
- Place a small amount in your mouth. Flavors come from taste buds on your tongue and aromas you smell. If your bite is too large, much of the food will be on your teeth, cheeks, and roof of your mouth where there are no taste buds.
- Savor the texture and flavors of the food on your tongue then slowly begin to chew. Breathe to allow the aromas to ascend to your nose.
- What does it taste like? What ingredients can you identify? Are the flavors interesting, exciting, pleasurable, or just so-so. (Imagine how much less food you’d eat if you didn’t bother to eat food you didn’t love.)
- As you swallow, notice the food gently and comfortably filling your stomach. Sit for a moment and let the flavors and experience linger.
- Set your fork down between bites. If you’re focused on loading your forkful you aren’t paying attention to the one in your mouth.
- Pause for a few moments in the middle of eating to check in and notice whether you’re approaching your intended fullness. Are you still enjoying your food? Becoming bored and distracted is a sure sign you’re done.
- How do you feel afterward? What went well? What will you do differently next time?
Instead of munching mindlessly, eat with intention and attention. As you realize the benefits, ask yourself what other areas of your life would benefit from more mindfulness.