Sometimes I find myself rushing even when I don’t need to. It’s a completely bad habit that comes from a deep feeling that I don’t have enough time. I’ve struggled with this most of my adult life. Feeling constantly busy and without time can truly rob you of life’s greatest joys.
One of my joys is eating good tasty food. I recently caught myself rushing through lunch (not for any good reason) and not really enjoying my meal. Afterward I felt sluggish and full but not very satisfied after visiting my favorite burger bar.
I realized that I could barely remember eating the food. You see, I was scrolling through my phone and stressing over emails that popped in and upcoming meetings. At the same time, I was scarfing down my burger and chugging iced tea. By the time I looked up, the burger and tea were gone and I was rushing back to work. Sapped of energy and focus, I was bloated and heading into a frustratingly unproductive afternoon.
The Mindless Eating Habit
Now I wish I could say this was the only time…it wasn’t. But I came to realize how I’d set myself up with one bad habit.
Before you stop reading, thinking this is just another post telling you to avoid carbs, processed food, sugar and bad stuff, hear me out. This isn’t a debate about WHAT we eat. It’s more about HOW we eat.
You know what its like to watch a movie holding a big tub of buttered salty popcorn? After two hours, the tub is empty and you wonder how you ate so much. You weren’t really aware of each bite. Your hand was on automatic, shoving popcorn in your mouth while your brain was enjoying Dwyane “The Rock” Johnson’s latest action movie. This is a classic case of mindless eating. You have no awareness of how much you’re eating and how full you feel.
The Downside OF Mindless Eating
You might wonder if there is much of a downside to mindless eating other than gaining weight by eating too many calories. I promised this wasn’t a diet post but any habit that allows you to eat without thinking will definitely impact your waistline. But there are other side effects in addition to overeating.
- Poor digestion
- Emotional eating triggered by stress, sadness, depression or other emotions
- Low energy
- Not recognizing your body’s signals to stop when full
How to eat mindfully
The key to ditching this habit is practicing mindful eating. That means being present and fully attentive to your meal.
1. Make a date with your plate
Instead of watching a movie or scrolling through YouTube videos at lunchtime, setup a quiet space where you can avoid distractions and focus on your meal. This isn’t the time to multitask or have a working lunch. Set your intention with each meal. Consider why you’re eating and how your food will fuel and nourish your body.
2. Eat Slowly
Eating fast and without chewing properly leads to gas and indigestion. It can take up to 20 minutes for your brain to register that you’re full. That’s why mindless eating leads to overeating and less recognition of your body’s natural signals. By slowing down, you allow your brain to catch up.
3. Engage your senses
Focus and engage your senses. Look closely at what you’re about to eat. Notice the texture, smells and tastes. Make each bite an experience.
4. Listen to your body and know your triggers
Mindless eating can numb our response to the body’s signals. As a result, we miss signals of fullness and keep eating. We should also notice our emotional triggers. For example, stress, depression and sadness can all trigger emotional eating. Personally, my trigger is overwhelm and a long to-do list.
5. Appreciate your food
Lastly, express gratitude for your meal and consider the process and journey required to bring nutritious food to your table. Appreciate each step and be thankful.
Mindful eating is a healthy practice that can improve both the mind and the body. By connecting with our food and setting our intention with each meal, we can break the habit of mindless eating and improve our relationship with food. I admit that I still work on this regularly. They call it a practice for a reason! When I fall off, its usually due to work and stress. Recognizing that tendency, I’m able to manage it effectively by revisiting these steps.