The clock hits noon—that means its lunchtime. My co-worker brought cookies to work—I might as well eat one (or three). That chips ad on television looks so tempting—I'll go into the kitchen and grab a handful. I'm meeting friends at my favorite restaurant for dinner—I better order something yummy.
These are just some examples of eating in response to external cues. It is estimated that the average American makes over 200 food choices each day, according to research by Brian Wansink and his research team at Cornell University. Most of these decisions are based on your surrounding environment and are made without much thought. Things like plate size, lighting, packaging, who we are with, and what we are doing all influence what and how much we eat. Often we become overwhelmed with the various signals around us telling us to eat and we lose sight of the internal cues (hunger, satiation, and fullness) that our bodies provide. This may result in overeating and weight gain. Mindful eating can help break this cycle. Next time you find yourself mindlessly reaching for that cold slice of pizza in your office break room, try these tips to see what it is that your body truly wants.
Check in with yourself. Take a few deep breaths to establish a connection with your body. Notice how the breath flows in and out of your body. Become aware of your bodily sensations. Are you hungry? If so, how hungry are you? Use a hunger awareness scale to more accurately assess your hunger, fullness, or satiety level. If you are hungry, then go ahead and eat- but do so mindfully.
Make a mindful food choice. What is it that your body truly desires? After you have made a food choice, take a few moments to be completely absorbed in the experience of eating. What does it look like, smell like, feel like, sound like, taste like? Are you enjoying this food? Is what you thought you wanted what you actually wanted? If it's not, don't continue to eat a food that you are not really enjoying. Make a new choice. Continue to use the hunger awareness scale and notice how your hunger, satiety, and fullness change as you eat.
There was an article published today in the New York Times Dining section discussing mindful eating and its benefits. How timely!