Practicing mindful eating - being aware of what you are eating and when (and why!) - is vital to maintaining a healthy diet, especially if you are trying to lose weight. Unfortunately, many people either forget to eat mindfully, or they don't know about mindful eating to begin with. I used to fall into the category of, "Sure I know what mindful eating is, and yes, I practice it...sometimes." Until I got pregnant with my first son.
Among other things, my pregnancies taught me a great lesson about eating mindfully. When I was pregnant for the first time, I experienced quite a bit of morning sickness. The only thing that helped me feel better was to be extremely mindful of what I was eating and how I was eating it.
Honest to goodness, every time that I ate "on the go" or in a mad rush, I felt horrible! So, I developed a few rules for myself about eating mindfully that I still practice today.
These rules might seem like common sense, and many of them are. But unfortunately, we don't always do what is good for us. But believe me, eating mindfully can change your entire relationship with food.
- My first rule is to never eat standing up. Don't laugh! We do it more often than we realize, especially if we are multitasking. Think back to an evening when you found yourself taking care of the kids, feeding the pets, cooking dinner, and throwing in a load of laundry, all seemingly at the same time. Now try to remember: Did you nosh while you powered through the chaos? I know this can be a challenge sometimes, but you can't tell me you don't have 5 or 10 minutes to spare to sit down and eat!
- My next rule is also pretty simple: Don't do anything else while you are eating. That means no multitasking! Again, that sounds simple, but I bet if you watched a video of yourself throughout the day you would be shocked at all the things you do while simultaneously eating: talking on the phone, driving, working, watching TV or a movie, playing on the computer, reading, knitting - the list goes on and on! The problem with watching TV or talking on the phone while eating is that you lose track of what you're doing. How many times have you multi-tasked through a meal, only to wonder afterward, "Oh my gosh, what did I just eat?" We've all been there, and yes, occasionally we may have to eat a snack or meal when we can't be 100 percent mindful. That's okay! As long as you make that the exception and not the rule.
- I will (unabashedly) admit that my third rule for practicing mindful eating is the hardest for me to follow: eating slowly! This is especially challenging for me because of my two small kids. I am constantly working on doing a better job at this, and I always remind myself to chew my food and not rush through it. I've also found that many people who eat quickly may suffer from digestive and bowel problems. Enough said!
- My last rule also happens to be a lesson that I am teaching my children on a daily basis that eating healthy is worth stopping for! My family and I sit down at 5:30 pm almost every night to have dinner together. We try to do this at a least five out of seven nights each week.
Some of you may be rolling your eyes and thinking, "Ha! Wait until her kids grow up. It's impossible to do that every night!" I totally get that - that it will become more challenging as my kids grow up. But that just means that I will have to work harder at enforcing this rule and sticking to it. I know plenty of busy families who never find the time to eat together, but I also know plenty of busy families who make it a priority to eat together at least a few times each week, and their families are stronger for it.
You don't have to follow any of these "rules" perfectly - just do them the best you can!