To experience optimal satisfaction and enjoyment from food without overeating, choose to eat “mindfully.” Mindful eating will make it possible for you to experience the difference between physical satisfaction and fullness so you will feel satisfied with smaller quantities of food. Just as important, learning to savor your food simply makes eating more pleasurable. Practice giving food and eating your full attention by using these strategies:
•Hunger is the best seasoning. Learn to listen to your body’s cues to know when to eat. Eating is most pleasurable when it is done to satisfy hunger.
•Don’t wait until you’re famished. One of the keys to conscious eating is to keep your body adequately fed to avoid becoming overly hungry which increases the chance that you will overeat.
•Choose food that will satisfy both your body and your mind. This is contrary to most of the usual diet rules so it may be challenging at first.
•Set the table in a pleasant manner. Creating a pleasant ambience adds to the enjoyment of eating and to your level of satisfaction.
•Eat without distractions. If you eat while you are distracted by watching television, driving, or talking on the telephone, you cannot give your food or your body’s signals your full attention Consequently, you may feel full after eating, but not satisfied.
•Eat when you are sitting down. Choose one or two particular areas at home and at work that are only used for eating and eat only there. For example, do not eat while standing over the sink, peering into the refrigerator, or sitting in bed.
•Appreciate the occasion. Appreciate the atmosphere, the company, or simply the fact that you are giving yourself the opportunity to sit down and enjoy your meal.
•Take a few breaths and center yourself before you begin eating. This will help you slow down and prepare to experience your meal.
•Appreciate the aroma and the appearance of your food. Notice the colors, textures, and smells of the food and imagine what it will taste like.
•Decide which food looks the most appetizing and start eating that food first. If you save the best until last, you may want to eat it even if you are full.
•Savor the aromas and tastes of your food as you eat it. Put your fork down between bites and be conscious of all the different sensations you are experiencing.
•If you notice that you are not enjoying what you chose, choose something else if possible. Eating food you do not enjoy will leave you feeling dissatisfied.
•Pause in the middle of eating for at least two full minutes. Estimate how much more food it will take to fill you to comfortable satiety.
•Push your plate forward or get up from the table as soon as you feel satisfied. The desire to keep eating will pass quickly. Keep in mind that you’ll eat again when you are hungry.
•When you finish eating notice how you feel. If you overate, don’t punish yourself. Instead, be aware of the physical and/or emotional discomfort that often accompanies being overly full and create a plan to decrease the likelihood that you will overeat next time.
By choosing to eat mindfully and experience the most pleasure from your eating, managing your weight will become easier and more enjoyable. Once you have experienced the increased pleasure from eating mindfully, you may be motivated to become more mindful during other activities too. Living “in the moment” and becoming more aware can increase your enjoyment and effectiveness in everything you do!
Michelle May, M.D. is a practicing Board Certified Family Physician with expertise in the cognitive-behavioral aspects of weight management. She is the author of Am I Hungry? What To Do When Diets Don’t Work in collaboration with a Registered Dietitian and Psychologist. Visit her website www.AmIHungry.com for free health information, or sign up for fun and interactive workshops to help you achieve your health and weight loss goals.