Have you ever finished a cookie and wanted to have just one more bite? Are you surprised when you eat your way through a bag of chips or a box of crackers? Do feelings of “overfull” and “stuffed” hit your awareness after you eat? If any of this is true for you, you’re not alone. Our fast-paced lives discourage mindful eating, which requires tuning in, paying attention and staying centered. Many of us eat while watching TV, driving or working. Often we eat while talking on the telephone or surfing the Internet. In the rush to get things done, filling one forkful after another and swallowing food without tasting it becomes the norm. Fullness is subtle, and sometimes quickly moving through meals leads to missed signals the body sends to the brain. Overeating becomes unconscious, and we end up eating far past “enough.” Then it happens again the next meal.
Experts say that it is not only important what we eat, but how we eat. By paying attention and making the choice to eat “mindfully,” you can learn how to be fully satisfied by food without overeating.
Mindful eating encourages awareness through the entire experience of eating, including selecting and preparing food. When eating mindfully, food is chosen that is both pleasing and nourishing to the body. Using all of the senses to taste, savor and enjoy food, eating is pleasurable. This process of deliberately paying attention without judgment allows freedom from reactive, habitual patterns of thinking, feeling and acting, which often include harsh and unkind statements toward ourselves.
Mindful eating is about making peace with food, and eating according to your body’s needs. When you eat mindfully, you eat to support the body’s naturally healthy state, inviting balance, choice, wisdom and acceptance. Being in the moment and paying attention while you eat allows you to slow down, chew well, taste thoroughly and enjoy eating.
Different than a “diet,” mindful eating does not rely on weighing or measuring food, restricting or avoiding certain foods, labeling some foods “good” and others “bad,” or counting fat grams or calories. Eating mindfully and encouraging self-acceptance allows us to be free from worrying about body size or “ideal” body weight. Instead, the practice of mindful eating encourages the following principles:
- Eat when hungry. Watch for your body’s hunger cues as a signal that it is time to eat. Eat enough to feel satisfied and comfortably full, not stuffed. For most of us, practicing mindful eating means having several small meals throughout the day and one or two planned snacks. Whole foods — mostly plant-based meals including fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and lean protein — promote satiety and mealtime satisfaction.
- Eat in a distraction-free zone. Pay attention to how food tastes and what feelings arise while eating. Take five or six slow, deep breaths when sitting down to eat. Many people benefit from saying silent grace, or what mindful practitioners call a food blessing before beginning meals. No matter which approach you choose, taking the time to slow down and savor food begins the practice of mindfulness, where the possibility of change begins.
- Eat what is desired. Overeating out of deprivation often happens when we eat what “should” be eaten instead of what we desire. Labeling certain foods “bad” and restricting food may also lead to searching for food whether you’re hungry. Eat rich, satisfying foods in smaller amounts, savoring every bite.
- Eat until satisfied, not uncomfortable. It takes about 20 minutes for the brain to register fullness while eating. Slow down, pay attention and stop before you feel stuffed. Practice putting down the fork in between bites, and take a breath or two to keep relaxed and aware while you eat. Wait a bit, then if you’re still hungry have more. Consistently eating until you’re stuffed means you’re not listening to your body’s signal of fullness. Occasional overeating is normal. To change habitual overeating, paying attention allows the possibility of change; noticing patterns provides the opportunity to choose a different outcome.
- Use the Healthy Eating Plate Model as a guide. This tool helps develop trust for cues of satisfaction and fullness. Using the Healthy Plate provides freedom from weighing, measuring or counting calories. Fill half your plate with vegetables, a quarter with lean protein, and the last quarter with whole grains including rice, potatoes, pasta or fresh fruit. This eating approach helps reduce anxiety over how much food is enough or too much. Building mealtime servings with delicious foods in appropriate portions allows healthful eating in exactly the right ratios of the right choices.
Remind yourself that food is pleasure and should be enjoyed. Using sight, smell and taste while eating allows all of your senses to participate in the enjoyment of a delicious and nourishing meal. This mindful approach incorporating sensory stimuli encourages eating satisfaction and effortless weight management. Be patient – remember it is called a “practice” rather than “perfection,” since it takes time and attention to create a different outcome. The body moves to the weight it is supposed to be, supported through the practice of mindfulness.
Enjoy this delicious, rich, satisfying nondairy Chocolate Mousse with your next meal. Savor the flavors, nourish the spirit and taste the rich chocolate with mindfulness.
Vegan Chocolate Mousse
12-ounce package of silken tofu (found in aseptic boxes, in a different section in the store from fresh tofu)
10 ounces dark chocolate chips
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Blend tofu (room temperature) in food processor, blender or with hand mixer until just smooth. In a double-boiler, melt chocolate chips with 1-2 tablespoons water over low heat. Stir constantly. Add maple syrup and vanilla to melted chocolate and combine. Mix with tofu until creamy. Chill, and serve in a martini glass (or other fancy dessert bowls) with fresh or frozen raspberries, a dollop of Greek yogurt and a sprig of fresh mint.
Nutrition Information: Calories 290, Protein 2.7 g, Fat 16.6 g (10.2 g saturated fat), Dietary Fiber 3.4 g, Sodium 20.4 mg, Potassium 122.4 mg, Sugars 30.4 g.