One big thing I have been talking about with my clients is the concept of "Mindful Eating". Mindful eating is about being present in the moment and stopping to think about your food choices. Mindful eating includes ideas like: tasting and savoring the food you eat, slowing down your meal time, and asking yourself if you are eating because you are truly hungry or just bored/stressed. Mindless eating can lead to weight gain because of the excessive calorie intake of mainly unhealthy foods. I mean lets face it, most people are not mindlessly snacking on carrots or celery, right?
There has been a lot of research about how your food environment influences your eating habits and affects how mindfully you eat. By food environment, I mean how your kitchen is set up or what you have on your table or the snacks you choose to keep at your desk at work. If you store unhealthy foods like chips or pretzels on the counter and bury the fruit in the drawer of the fridge, you are way more likely to choose the chips when you come in your house hungry. Same as if you have chocolate and candy in your desk drawer but left your roasted almonds in your car, you are way more likely to choose the candy when hunger strikes at work. How you set up your food environment can either help or hinder your chances at achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Below are some tips I have used with clients that can help improve mindfulness with eating!
Don't Leave Food Out
Avoid leaving high calorie snack foods on the counter. If you are putting anything out, make it fruits or vegetables.
Put Healthy Foods at Eye Level in the Fridge
Wash and cut produce and store in clear containers. When you open the fridge, make your fruits and veggies the first thing you see and you are more likely to eat them.
Hide or Eliminate Unhealthy Foods From Your Cabinets
You know yourself better than anyone else. If you can't keep chips hidden in the back of the cabinet without eating the whole bag at once, then don't buy them at all.
Don't Eat and Cook
I get so many people who tell me they snack while cooking! Chances are they end up forgetting how much they ate and being stuffed up on unhealthy foods before they even get to dinner. If your not snacking on veggies, then put away the munchies! Try chewing gum, using mouthwash, or sipping an unsweetened beverage instead.
Use Smaller Plate and Bowls
This is one of those things that everyone says; however, it does work!
Leave Leftovers on the Stove
This goes along with using smaller plates and bowls. I mean you may have a smaller plate, but still refill it more than if you just ate the regular size. By keeping leftovers away from the table, it forces you to get up for seconds. During that time, assess your hunger level and think about if you are truly hungry or just want more. You can also pack up the leftover before you eat, so you are less tempted to overindulge!
Turn off the TV
Watching TV and eating is one of the biggest drivers towards mindless eating. People end up eating more and again it is not normally the steamed broccoli when they do. So, turn off the TV and pay attention to what you are eating and maybe even the conversation at the table.
Force Yourself to Sit
Do you find yourself wandering around the kitchen munching? Or grabbing a bag of chips or crackers and eating right from there while standing? Instead of standing and eating from the container, which makes it easy to lose track of how much you consume, portion out your food and take the time to sit and enjoy it.
Hopefully, you find one strategy that can help you to eat more mindfully and improve your diet in a healthy way!
Watch "An Overview of Mindful Eating"