How to Eat Mindfully

How to Eat Mindfully www.mindfulmomma.com

Enough already! I’ve been inhaling sweets, treats and loads of wine for way too many months now. It’s time for a detox!

This year, the holiday excess has lasted well into January – what with New Year’s eve being in the middle of the week, a trip to see friends in Manhattan after that, and then the bitter cold deep freeze that extended the kids’ winter break two extra days. Now the excuses have run out and I need to get busy cutting back.

But my husband is working out of town all week (yep, more excuses!) and I decided that single parenting and extreme detoxing do not go hand in hand. So instead, I’m having a week of mindful eating. I’ll kick into a more restricted detox diet next week, where I attempt to live without caffeine (we’ll see!), sugar, dairy and all that other good stuff.

What is mindful eating?

To eat mindfully means to slow down. Pay attention to what you are eating. Look at it. Chew it slowly. Taste it. Appreciate it. It’s about having a relationship with your food instead of just inhaling it. Mindful eating is not about dieting although it may indeed help you to eat less. Mindful eating is not the same as meditating although it may help you to feel more relaxed. At its core, mindful eating is about being in the present moment with the food you eat so that you will appreciate it and enjoy it to its full extent.

Mindful eating tips

  • Sit  down – It’s a lot harder to eat mindfully when you are standing up or eating on the run.
  • Use a plate – Serve yourself a portion of food and stick to it, instead of eating straight out of the carton or bag.
  • Try chopsticks – Eating with chopsticks or smaller utensils slows you down.
  • Avoid multi-tasking – Just focus on eating.  Don’t read, work or talk while you eat (I know, that’s almost impossible for me too).
  • Spend time chewing – Some recommend chewing each bite 25 times but if that seems too much, just chew more than you usually do.
  • Put down your fork –  Placing your fork on the table after a bite helps you be more mindful of when you take the next one.
  • Drink water – Take a sip of good old H2O in between bites. Not only is it good for you but will help you slow down your food intake.
  • Plan your meals – Knowing what you are going to eat next helps to reduce mindless grabbing from the snack cabinet.

How it works for me

A big part of mindful eating for me it to pay attention to my habits and my cravings. I have a tendency to eat without thinking….to snack while packing the kids’ lunches, to munch while making dinner and to grab treats out of the cupboard whenever I feel the slightest craving for something. And I have wicked cravings. Especially for salt and sweets (and sometimes for brussels sprouts, but I’m not worried about that).

Here’s how I’m working on being mindful this week:

  • Caffeine – I’m really enjoy that first cup and then thinking twice about having a second. If I’m tired in the afternoon, I try a few jumping jacks to rev up my energy. If I’m cold, a cup of herbal tea is perfect. If I’m thirsty, water will do.
  • Sugar – No more Christmas cookies. No more candy. If I need something sweet, I’m trying to stick to Stonyfield flavored yogurt, dried fruits (dates are my fav!) or chocolate soy butter on a banana. I’m paying close attention to my sweet cravings because I know that much of the time it’s just habit kicking in….and I totally get the value of breaking habits.
  • Salty Foods – Salt cravings are the worst. I feel like I just have to have something salty or I will die. I’m pretty sure that when I’m craving salt, it means I’m thirsty but drinking water doesn’t necessarily make the craving go away. To appease my senses, I allow myself a small handful of nuts – almonds, cashews or whatever I’ve got. I also love to sprinkle a handful of sunflower seeds on salads or roasted veggies. Yum!
  • Processed foods – Doing my best to stay far away from packaged foods of all types.
  • Alcohol – Aside from one work party this week, I’m steering clear of the swill. If I feel like a need a “reward” after a long day, I’ll treat myself to some TV.
  • Snacking – I’m working hard to avoid those mindless snacking moments. It’s hard!

Next week, my husband and I will attempt to venture into a more restricted detox diet to really cleanse out our systems. In the past we have followed the Whole Living Challenge but now that the magazine has folded, we don’t have a specific plan to follow.  I’ll dig out my recipes from year’s past and try out some new ones from  Bon Appetit’s Food Lover’s Cleanse. We may be eating less but we will be eating well!

Are you doing any type of detox this January or do you practice mindful eating? I’d love to hear how it works for you!

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(Image credit: Chiat’s Run via flickr cc)

About Micaela

Micaela Preston is a marketing and communications consultant specializing in natural, organic and eco-friendly products and the health and wellness space. Micaela is available as a social media manager, green lifestyle writer, public speaker, brand ambassador and marketing manager.

Comments

  1. Hmmmm. I really need to do this. My holiday splurging has spilled over into January. Mindful eating is so important, yet I find myself grabbing a few bites here and a few there. I think I need to join you! Can’t wait to hear more about the detox once hubby returns!

    • You are such a healthy eater all year round Lori – but I know what you mean – the splurging can go on for too long. The best part about mindful eating for me is enjoying every bite – because I do LOVE food so much!

  2. Dates! I love them. Best replacement for sugary snaks. I only have alcohol on special occasions, on once in a while, weekends. Which makes it special!

    • You are much better than me Julie. I enjoy wine way too much! But I find drinking wine is also an easy habit to get into – and empty calories that I just don’t need.

  3. This is just what I needed to read. I completely went off the rails on healthy eating during the holidays (cookies! homemade chex mix! CHOCOLATE! Baileys!), and then did a juice cleanse last week. Both were too extreme for my system.

    Looking forward to incorporating some more mindfulness into my eating going forward. Thanks!

    • Ha! It’s easy to go off the rails when there is so much yummy food around. I’d love to know more about your juice cleanse. I’ve never had the guts to drink only liquids for even one day. I agree – it sounds too extreme to me but many people swear by it. Good luck on your mindful eating journey!

  4. This is such a great reminder! I am in the midst of a New Year’s cleanse (eliminating sugar, alcohol, gluten, meat, and dairy) that I’ve done for the past several years and while I love the way I feel I know that I need to bring the mindfulness to it as well. Otherwise, it’s so easy to slip right back into bad habits once the detox is over!

    • Alyssa – yes, it’s very easy to slip back into those bad habits. I’m all about moderation and enjoying treats but I have a hard time breaking the habit of needing something sweet every day. Hope your detox is going well!

  5. I want to, but here’s the deal: I’m feeling SO MUCH PRESSURE to do stuff in January. It’s stressing me. So I’m getting done the things I need to and going to focus on cleaner eating in February and stick to focusing on family eating in Jan – just slowing down when I’m with them, letting go the phone, etc.. I know I need to do this, but January has become this high-expectation low-motivation months. It’s ALSO been filled with way more kid days off than I can count, thanks to weather, conferences & holidays, lol!

    • Gina – cleaner eating in February sounds like a good plan to me! We have a ton of days off in January too – yikes – makes it hard to get stuff done, so I can relate. All we can do is our best, right?

  6. I really need to follow this advice. I have been eating so bad since Christmas time and usually I am better. Thanks for the reminder!!

  7. Excellent ideas here! We all know it is all elementary stuff, but it is easiest to forget exactly those things.

    For me personally it is the hardest to stick up to planning my meals. Many times I have no time to eat at the time I wanted to and then end up having lunch in the early afternoon because of insane hunger. That’s exactly something I want to tune up. Thank you for the article!

    • That happens to me all the time at lunchtime Chantal! I let myself get too hungry and then eat more than I should.

  8. You are right! Mindless eating is a habit I’d like to break this year.

    • I don’t know if I’ll ever break the mindless eating habit completely – but I can at least try to be “mindful” about it – LOL!

  9. My husband and I are doing the Daniel Fast & Prayer diet for the first time this year. It’s a 21 day detox-type of diet and many ways to go about it. Some eat strictly fruits and vegetables, whether canned or fresh. We’ve eliminated wheat and meat, processed foods of all sorts, eggs, most dairy and all sweets of any kind.
    The only dairy we have allowed is Kefir milk in our smoothies in the morning. We sweeten it with Date Honey (which is just simmered Dates in water and blended in a blender). The best cookbook ever is “The Ultimate Guide To The Daniel Fast” by Kristen Feola. Her recipes are so amazing, we hardly felt like we were sacrificing anything. I got my e-book for the NOOK from Barnes & Noble, and I also downloaded a couple of more cheap, cheap Daniel Fast Cookbook. They are okay, not as good as this one.

    • Hi Missy – thanks for the head’s up about the Daniel Fast diet – I’ve never heard of it. I’ll look into it for sure!

  10. Thanks for this great post, I need to incorporate more mindfulness into my eating. It’s very timely since I just watched a tedx that talks about mindfulness while eating as one of the best tools out there to teach children how to self regulate their food, rather than dieting. Posting to Twitter!

    • That’s so interesting Lindsay. I’m afraid it’s true that many kids are not taught the importance of healthy eating and self regulation. I’ll have to look for that TedX show!

  11. Eating without noticing is one of my biggest downfalls too. Good luck with the detox!

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