Research shows that feeling good about what we eat and enjoying food with family and friends is essential to healthy weight maintenance. Sharing a meal with loved ones makes us more relaxed, more mindful of how much we’re eating — and can ultimately lead to a leaner body.
At least not at mealtime! Research from Cornell University shows that if your meal involves a screen — be it a television, phone or computer — you are more likely to overeat. That’s because your brain can’t fully register feelings of fullness when you’re distracted. Take time to sit at the table and turn off all electronic devices at meal time. If you’re dining with friends or family, you can try a conversational game to learn about their day called “Best and Worst.” Go around the table and ask, “What was the worst part of your day?” followed by, “Now, what was the best part of your day?”
Reconnecting with food in a positive way is often easier when you are invested in the process of cooking it. With many dishes, you can combine a few healthy ingredients and come out with something deliciously satisfying. Take pasta as an example — boil water and add whole wheat penne, and in the last few minutes, add broccoli crowns to quickly cook them. Drain everything together and toss with minced garlic, drained and rinsed garbanzo beans, good olive oil and fresh-ground pepper. Voîla!
Most of us spend our days at computers or on conference calls, rarely having the chance to produce creative, tangible things. Assembling bright, fresh ingredients and working through the process of cooking them can nurture not only your body but your mind as well.
Connecting with those you love over food gives more meaning to the meal and allows you to focus on experiencing the dish together. Talking about the flavors and textures of the food, the tradition of the recipe or style of meal or the comfort the food provides all make for a more enjoyable and satisfying experience. Get back in touch with the pleasure that each bite brings!
There is also some science to this — when you connect with family and friends, the stress hormone, cortisol, is lowered. When cortisol is too high, it can interfere with digestion and cause us to store excess calories as fat — particularly the dreaded belly fat.
Follow these 3 steps to practice mindful eating:
Be present. Take a moment to focus on the food in front of you.
Give thanks and calm yourself. Before you even take your first bite, pause for a moment to give thanks and to take three or four deep breaths. Breathe through your nose and exhale gently through your mouth. This will help you begin to slow down and be mindful of your meal — especially if you have been rushing around all day.
Appreciate. As you begin to eat, notice not only the taste of the food, but the textures and aromas. Is there a favorite spice in the dish? Are the veggies crisp and flavorful? Does the meal satisfy your hunger and need to nourish yourself? All of these questions, whether you answer them or not, lead to mindful eating.
Try these 7 Mindful Eating Tips from researchers at the University of California at Berkley.
Do you practice mindfulness when you eat? What are some of healthy eating rituals? Your comments are valuable, share them here.
Author: Kristen Ciuba
Kristen is a Nutritionist at Diet-to-Go, based in Lorton, VA. She tries to “practice what she preaches” by fitting in healthy foods and cooking, challenging exercise, and quality time with family and friends every day!